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Institution Spotlight: Academic Restorative Justice

Erin Strange, UW-Madison and Jessica Kuecker-Grotjohn, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

May 30, 2018

Academic Restorative Justice invites students to share their stories in a group, deeply reflect on their decisions, and understand the multiple layers of impact their choices can have on the college community. Through this process, students must take an active role in their learning. This differs from the (sometimes) passive role students can take in a traditional conduct meeting. The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison have implemented programs of Academic Restorative Justice and have found that not only are referred students benefitting greatly from this program, but so are faculty and staff community members alike.

The University of Minnesota, Office of Community Standards, designed the Academic Integrity Matters (AIM) program to address the growing number of academic misconduct reports in a more holistic way. AIM uses principles of restorative justice to repair harm caused by academic misconduct, rebuild trust in the student, and involve the larger university community in making decisions about outcomes to resolve matters. AIM brings together multiple students who have accepted responsibility for engaging in academic misconduct with trained community members to participate in a facilitated dialog. Community members are volunteers from the university and consist of students, staff, and faculty. Through the facilitated dialog, student participants to share their perspective of what happened, reflect on the decisions that led to the incident, and identify harm caused by their actions. Community members then respond to each student. The students and community members engage in a dialog about the actions and harm caused by the incident of academic misconduct. Following the discussion, the community members and students identify ways to repair harm caused by misconduct. This could involve repairing a relationship with a faculty member, participating in a writing workshop, or some other agreement specific to a student’s incident.

To date, over 325 students have participate in the AIM program at UMN. The University of Wisconsin Madison implemented a program modeled after AIM during the 2017-2018 academic year called Badgers AIM. Over 60 students have participated in the program in the first year.

Student participants and community members have shown overwhelmingly positive responses to the AIM programs. Students are thankful for the opportunities to participate in such programs as a way to put the incidents of academic misconduct. Students often report that they were appreciative that community members wanted to help them succeed. Community members have expressed a deeper understanding of the student experience as it relates to overcoming setbacks and disappointments.

Another effect of AIM is the increased reporting of academic misconduct. Faculty and instructors are more likely to report a student for academic misconduct when they feel as though the student will be held accountable but that it will not “ruin the student’s life” by sentencing them to a disciplinary record. Through community involvement, the AIM and Badger AIM programs have changed the way the campuses think about and respond to incidents of academic misconduct.

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