RJ@Duke is based on the fundamental premise that people are happier, more cooperative, more productive and more likely to make positive changes when they work with others in authority to address concerns. The restorative practices model provides a guiding philosophy to foster community that proactively develops positive relationships, creates shared values, and manages conflict by acknowledging and repairing harms. In so doing, social wellbeing, belonging and civic participation increases while misbehavior, harassment and violence decreases—such outcomes have been well documented in K-12 and criminal justice settings and suggest similar results would be seen in other settings from workplaces to campuses.
Meet the 2020 RJ Fellows.
Read the RJ Fellows Blogs.
The same polarization, isolation and incivility that mark the nation increasingly also mark Duke’s campus. Anger, animosity and distrust spills into social media as much as our everyday interactions. Racial and other bias incidents, hazing, sexual assault, harassment and plain indecency sometimes mar what should be an environment of self-discovery, purpose and meaning. Most often the response to such incidents are to expect those in authority to enact punitive or paternalistic responses if anything at all – none of which are typically effective at changing behavior as we have seen from years of crafting rules and regulations for all kinds of concerns that seem to perpetually repeat in the next year’s class. Even worse, many individual and community harms often do not reach the threshold of a clear law or policy violation—or those affected don’t trust the institutional systems meant to address them.
In the Spring of 2018 under the direction of senior leadership in Student Affairs and the Office for Institutional Equity, Duke hosted a restorative justice training for Student Affairs professionals, campus administrators, faculty and students. From that initial training, Kenan coordinated the creation of an RJ Steering Committee, a diverse group of administrators gathered to guide initial efforts to instill restorative practices across the campus. A similar leadership group of undergraduate students also grew from that initial training to inform student efforts and are now formally recognized as RJ Fellows at Kenan.
Work to date includes:
- Greek Life integrated community building and dialogue circles throughout the experience including the Greek Leadership Academy and Compass, the sophomore year experience program. They have also strategically engaged all of the national Greek leadership organizations in community-building and dialogue circles. The student-led Sexual Assault Prevention Team of Greek Life also requested an introductory training to RJ to learn how restorative practices might be used to prevent sexual harm.
- The Office of New Student Programs led community building circles for the Freshmen Advisory Council (FAC) Board who then incorporated circle training into the spring 2019 FAC Summit. Each member then led circles for first year students during orientation week. In spring of 2020, Pre-Orientation Directors participated in a series of circles, both in person and virtual, to introduce them to using circles for community building in their programs.
- Residential Life provided training for Resident Coordinators and Resident Advisors who oversee life in the dormitories included informal restorative practices to respond to interpersonal conflicts, concerning behavior, insensitive remarks, or minor offenses. In summer 2019, the Resident Coordinators participated in a longer 2-day training. The Assistant Dean for Residence Life, Leadership and Faculty Engagement is working to incorporate RJ into RA training for fall 2020.
- DukeReach, which works with students of concern, is exploring re-entry conferencing for students returning to campus after disruptive leaves whether voluntary or involuntary.
- The Office of Student Conduct added language to the conduct policies in summer 2019 that allowed for an alternative resolution to the conduct hearing process for students who experience sexual harm and other offense. Students who desire this alternative for sexual harm are referred to the Student Ombuds who uses RJ to work with both parties. They are currently working to devise a more comprehensive plan and recommendations for integrating restorative practices to other conduct concerns.
- The Student Ombuds uses restorative conferencing and other more informal restorative practices to resolve conflicts between faculty and students, peers, and within groups and units and for repairing communities and relationships between students and faculty after investigations of harassment or other concerns are concluded.
- The Office for Institutional Equity (OIE) revised its harassment policy in 2019, and includes, as one option for informal resolution of harassment complaints, “Facilitated Conversation, Mediation or Restorative Process”. Individuals who choose this option, depending upon the conduct and the parties’ role, would be referred to an appropriate administrator, Ombuds or OIE.