Revisions to HC student justice system strengthen community cohesion

A longstanding part of Hastings College’s campus community, the Community Accountability Board (CAB) and restorative justice system makes sure that any violations of student conduct are resolved in a meaningful and productive way. After being accused of violating the student handbook, an individual may appeal that violation to CAB. 

“Once an appeal is filed, it’s passed on to the board and they meet roughly every two weeks. They determine whether the appeal is accepted or not accepted, and then the students who appeal get a follow-up letter,” said Smith. 

CAB was previously known as the Residence Life Conduct Board (RLCB) until last year and coexisted with the now defunct Student Judiciary Council (SJC), which focused on punitive (monetary) justice. Ideally composed of one student representative from each of the campus housing facilities and an off-campus representative, with the Coordinator of Community Living for Advocacy and Accountability (CLC) Murphy Glen and the Dean of Student Engagement Lisa Smith serving as advisors, CAB decides whether an accused party is responsible or not responsible. If the party is decided responsible, they are directed to the restorative justice circle.

“I deliver information to the group and I facilitate the decision making process, but in the end the final decision of whether or not a student is held responsible is up to the student members of CAB,” said Glen.

With emphasis on restorative action through the justice circle, repercussions for wrong doings are focused on giving back to the campus community instead of monetary fines. When directed to the justice circle, the responsible party would meet with peers and representatives from that area of the community, such as RAs or students, along with the CLC and dean of student engagement. 

“The purpose of a restorative justice experience is that it creates a culture of mutual respect and builds back, it takes wrongdoing and creates right action. Someone does something that does not help build the community, so restorative justice is a process of deciding what to do next, reflecting on that, acknowledging and accepting responsibility, and working in a dialogic fashion with the group to figure out what needs to be done to give back and build the community,” Smith said.

Restorative justice actions can vary, but always require that the student(s) give back to the HC community to strengthen the social contract and cohesion of the community. This year, focus will be directed to students to determine the best way to give back to the community to create more impactful service. 

 “Last year, a lot of what the students did was revisit the student handbook and help create curriculum for CORE 100. A lot of times, what we heard was that the handbook was hard to engage with so (we wanted to) create curriculum based on it. People created scenarios from their situations for classes to decide what should have been done. We also revised the handbook together, they had to participate back into the community and help make the community stronger,” Smith said. 

CAB membership used to be on an appointed basis, but as of last year any student may apply. 

With new campus guidelines regarding COVID-19, social distancing violations may affect the board’s decision on related cases but are not likely to be the main factor in the decision. 

“CAB will see COVID-19 violations if and when they go hand-in-hand with a violation from the student handbook. For example, if a social gathering involving alcohol and underage students is broken up and masks were not being worn or the gathering exceeded the allowed occupancy, CAB would factor the COVID-19 violation into their final decision,” Glen said.