EDITORIAL: Recognize efforts to improve Special Examiner’s Process
On Aug. 19, University students received the annual update of the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook. One of the listed changes to the handbook was an update on the Special Examiner’s Process, the method by which the University investigates sexual assault or sexual harassment cases. The University has introduced a concept called Restorative Justice, which can be carried out only in cases that do not involve physical contact.
With Restorative Justice, after the accused party is found guilty of sexual misconduct, the two parties would both have to agree to meet and talk instead of going through the process of a formal sanctioning panel. The parties would discuss the case together and decide what steps to take moving forward and the final punishment for the responsible student. This board applauds the University for its implementation of the Restorative Justice system and its efforts to continue the fight against sexual harassment on campus.
The Restorative Justice method puts an emphasis on dialogue, learning and mending community relationships, all of which are core values of a Brandeis education and which we believe are important in resolving any conflict — particularly such a sensitive and serious one.
In the future we would like to see the University apply the Restorative Justice model across University disciplinary actions and implement it more thoroughly into University culture. RJ expert David Karp wrote to the Justice that RJ works best when “RJ is used for a variety of purposes from student misconduct to community building in residential and campus life.” The more students have experiences with RJ, the more data can be gathered to refine its implementation, and the more accepted it will become by the community.
We commend the University’s steps to broaden and explore ways to resolve sexual misconduct cases and hope they will continue to focus on expanding these efforts in the future, as well as focus on sexual assault prevention.
We hope that the Restorative Justice method proves to be an effective and favorable choice for students and, if successful, will be implemented in other areas of campus conflict and serve as a model to other schools handling sexual harassment cases.