The UC Office of the President organized a systemwide training session last month to educate student affairs staff about using restorative justice to constructively resolve student conflicts and maintain a safe atmosphere.

The instruction was based on the methods promoted by Skidmore College Associate Dean of Student Affairs David Karp, author of Restorative Justice on the College Campus, who helped facilitate the conferences along with Learning Laboratories founder Duke Fisher. Restorative justice is a method of conflict resolution that aims to encourage open discussion with an emphasis on respecting the emotions of all parties involved.

According to UCOP Executive Communications Specialist Caitlin Callaghan, the methods will be applied in situations lacking existing remedial policy.

“Essentially, it will be an additional resource for student affairs to use in a variety of issues within campus conduct, particularly in regards to campus climate,” Callaghan said. “It can be a great opportunity for education and dialogue for situations without formal sanctions.”

Already a commonly used in criminal cases, restorative justice is gaining wider application in higher education as a means of fostering dialogue between faculty and students. The model aims to allow both victims and offenders opportunities to speak their side.

Assistant Dean of Students Stephan Franklin said similar tactics are already used to manage conflicts on campus.

“We’ve had community members at odds with each other — for example, with vandalism in the residence halls or damage to the community — and so restorative justice has been used,” Franklin said. “It gives us more tools to have a community that is empowered and allows the restoration of good faith within community members.”

UC Students’ Association President Claudia Magana, a third-year sociology, politics and Latin American and Latino Studies major at UC Santa Cruz, said the organization introduced the concept to the UC community since it is more constructive than other means of conflict resolution.

“We started by bringing it up in discussion with UC President Mark Yudof, helping UCOP realize that restorative justice would be a good solution,” Magana said. “It will create a process where the offender can learn why their actions caused harm, as well as providing closure for victims. I think that it would create the best kind of end solution and a greater consciousness overall.”

The training session, which attracted roughly 25 student affairs staff members, who acquired the techniques through role-playing, also worked closely with the Advisory Council on Campus Climate.