The Center for Restorative Practices, housed in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, fosters an inclusive, engaging campus climate where all members have the tools and experiences necessary to engage in meaningful, restorative dialogue around community and conflict; where conflict management is not viewed as an end in and of itself, but where transforming conflict is seen as a pathway to a stronger, caring and more just community.
To do this, we aim to answer these two transformational questions:
The CRP is working towards transformational change by reimagining how we engage, live with, and respect each other, focusing on restorative community building and education.
Suzanne Belleci, director of the Center for Restorative Practices, provides an overview of the goals and work of the Center for Restorative Practices.
Restorative practices is an emerging social science with deep roots within indigenous communities throughout the world. It studies how to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities.
A campus-wide collaborative effort to incorporate restorative philosophies and practices into the Amherst community
To prioritize the building, maintaining, and, when harmed, repairing of relationships between all members of the community
By teaching, learning, and practicing how to engage in conflict we understand our impact and our avenues for healing.
What Is The CRP?
The Center for Restorative Practices houses a campus-wide collaborative effort spearheaded by students, administrators, faculty, and staff with the goal of incorporating restorative philosophies and practices into the Amherst College community. The CRP identifies, builds, and coalesces a set of programs and resources with the intention to build community and prepare all members to deal with the inevitable conflict that will arise even as we work to create a more inclusive Amherst.
The CRP allows us to model our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion while focusing on relationships, community, and belonging. Restorative practices are both proactive (e.g., building community, organizing meetings, and fostering collaborative decision making) and reactive (e.g., managing conflict).
As a proactive tool, restorative circles provide a safe, supportive, and structured environment for participants to deepen their connection and sense of community through collaborative learning, experiential activities, and readings. These lay the foundation for community members to address and manage harm and conflict as they arise. Circles are co-facilitated by trained and experienced members of the Amherst community.
In response to conflict, restorative practices give voice to, and center the needs of, those who have been harmed. Instead of addressing conflict simply as a violation of school policy, restorative practices focus on the harm done to people, relationships, and the community as a result of the conflict. Those who caused the harm are then encouraged to acknowledge, take accountability for, and address the consequences of the harm caused by their actions. The ultimate goals of restorative practices are to address and repair harm, and rebuild relationships between individuals and communities when fractures do occur.
Why Is The CRP Necessary?
Adopting restorative practices requires a significant transformation of Amherst’s culture and not merely for the sake of change. The CRP represents both a disruption and alternative to business as usual. Embracing a restorative approach will allow us to:
foreground community building
support collaborative decision making
fill gaps in our current community standards procedures
create more options for addressing and redressing community harm, and
modify (or when necessary replace) the assumptions and systems that have stunted our ability to create the campus community we desire.
Restorative practices prioritize the building, maintaining, and, when harmed, repairing of relationships between all members of the community. This approach can challenge, confuse, and cause discomfort, especially for those with a punitive or heirachical mindset. Focusing on repairing harm necessarily forces us to learn from the experience that has led to the conflict and examine our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors which have contributed to it. This, therefore, requires a cultural shift away from punitive practice to a relational approach. Challenging pre-existing frameworks is the work of true culture change.
How Does The CRP Affect Our Community?
Restoration education focuses on educating the community about what we mean by “restore,” articulating what we mean by cultural values and priorities, how to engage in conflict, understanding one’s impact on the community, and how to help heal after harm. In addition, creating a truly inclusive community will necessarily require us to consider re-entry and reingagment after conflict.
Sitting in circle is as old as human gathering. Restorative Circles include Community Building Circles, Reparative Circles, Re-Integration Circles, Collaborative Decision-Making Circles, as a way to equitably share thoughts and experiences, create common ground, develop a stronger sense of community, repair harm and re-integrate those who have caused harm back into the community.
Offering interactive trainings to enhance knowledge, such as Identity and Conflict Transformation; Restorative Justice vs. Punitive Justice; Active Listening for Conflict Resolution; Circle Facilitation; Peer Mediation; Peer-Led Harm and Impact Circles, Dialog for Difficult Conversations; Reducing Social Media Harm; Apology and Amend Making, we share what we have learned.
Engaging with parties in conflict to bear witness to harm caused, holding each accountable for their part, and offering each support for their needs, participants sit with a skilled cross-cultural, multi-partial mediator. Our focus remains on repairing the relationships while reinforcing that there is no lasting peace without speaking your truth and feeling heard, valued, and believed.
Read an interview with Dr. Allen Hart and watch interviews with Directors Susie Belleci and Fabio Ayala. Also, read a piece from Eli Maierson '23 in the Amherst Student, #IntegrateAmherst: Restorative Justice Is Necessary But Insufficient.
To report bias incidents you can use the Identity-Based Harm Incident Report form or reach out to email@example.com
The CRP is developing a variety of restorative tools with the intention to build community and prepare all members to deal with the inevitable conflict that will arise even as we work to create a more inclusive Amherst. After harm, we begin with a structured listening session, followed by several restorative circles and then action planning to facilitate lasting attitude, awareness and behavior changes and to enhance well-being for all involved.