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  • Restorative Justice on the College Campus: Promoting Student Growth and Responsibility, and Reawakening the Spirit of Campus Community
  • Maureen E. Wilson
Restorative Justice on the College Campus: Promoting Student Growth and Responsibility, and Reawakening the Spirit of Campus Community David R. Karp and Thom Allena (Eds.) Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 2004, 267 pages, $48.95 (softcover)

All campus communities are affected by student behavior that violates campus policies and civil and criminal laws. The challenges of regulating and responding to the behaviors are tremendous. From relatively minor infractions to very serious criminal behavior, campus officials deal with it all. A variety of philosophies and strategies guide the approach to campus discipline systems. [End Page 355]

Restorative justice (RJ) is "a collaborative decision making process that includes victims, offenders, and others seeking to hold offenders accountable by having them (1) accept and acknowledge responsibility for their offenses, (2) to the best of their ability repair the harm they caused to victims and communities, and (3) work to reduce the risk of reoffense by building positive social ties to the community" (p. xv). The purpose of Restorative Justice on the College Campus is to examine student discipline and RJ as an effective response to it.

In the first of the book's four sections, Karp, a sociologist, presented an overview of RJ in chapter 1. Convinced of its effectiveness in criminal justice, he promoted the use of RJ in campus judicial affairs as well. He described five explanations for student misconduct: (a) Students arriving on campus for the first time face a "sudden, dramatic loss of supervision" (p. 5) and many lack internal controls to regulate their behavior appropriately; (b) Many students face peer pressure to use alcohol and other drugs, overestimate the amount others use, and seek to conform to that misperception; (c) Student culture is at odds with mainstream society and the law regarding drug use and underage alcohol consumption; (d) Colleges have utilized few alternatives to coercive techniques to seek compliance with campus policies and criminal laws; and (e) Because a quarter of all students are new each year, discipline must be educational and on-going. Karp argued that RJ "offers a communitarian alternative to liberal avoidance and conservative crackdowns" (p. 7). RJ emphasizes democratic participation, inclusion, and stewardship and encourages dialogue to hold offenders responsible for their actions and meet victims' needs. Offender reintegration is key.

Karp described four principles to guide student judicial practices. First, the judicial system must be accessible to students. They must know policies and they should be communicated with minimal legalese. Second, "community members should participate actively in the process" (p. 8). Third, "sanctioning should focus on repairing harm" (p. 8). Fourth, offenders are obligated to reassure the community that they will not further harm the community and the community must try to reintegrate the offender.

RJ promotes restoration and reintegration rather than retributive sanctions. Although suspension and expulsion remain a possibility, apology, restitution (not fines), and enlightened community service are promoted.

Victim offender mediation, conferencing models, circles, and boards are four restorative justice models, and three are described in part 2. Each "seeks an outcome that is morally satisfying to the participants in the decision-making process" (p. 13). Although RJ processes do not always succeed, Karp argued that they "may more closely reflect the overarching mission of higher education than contemporary judicial affairs practices" (p. 13).

In chapter 2, Lowery and Dannells provided a brief history of campus judicial practice, review current discipline philosophy and issues and contemporary practice, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of current practice in student judicial affairs, and present the possibilities and challenges of RJ. They suggested that balancing legal and developmental concerns is the overarching issue facing student judicial affairs and argue that "overly legalistic student judicial affairs systems" create an adversarial environment and "do not provide the support necessary for personal and social development" (p. 21). That legalistic environment also makes it difficult to respond to the community impact of student behavior.

The authors argued that many institutions [End Page 356] are ready to embrace RJ procedures as evidenced by alternative dispute resolution programs on campuses. To be successful, however, RJ proponents...


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