Pomona’s JBoard hones in on restorative justice in this fall’s training

JBoard’s restorative justice training represents a commitment to fair judicial practices. (Courtesy of Pomona College Judicial Council)

Last weekend, Pomona College’s student-run Judicial Council (JBoard) hosted its annual fall training, where new and returning panelists went through mock cases and training sessions with a restorative justice framework, aimed to prepare them for enacting sanctions in real hearings.

Functioning as Pomona’s disciplinary system, JBoard hears cases of alleged violations of the Student Handbook, according to its website. The board is composed of four chairs and about 40 panelists that act as a jury to determine violations of college policy as well as appropriate sanctions. 

In action at the 5Cs, a restorative justice framework encourages student autonomy when promoting and enforcing community standards. However, there has been a recent push to expand these types of measures, which would include hosting roundtable discussions about proposed changes to the student handbook’s amnesty policy. 

For its latest Sept. 24 training, JBoard brought in restorative justice expert Dr. Rachel King to further infuse its framework into the council’s work. King is an experienced facilitator of this type of training, with a specialization in harassment and misconduct in higher education. 

Exercises involved the students recognizing implicit bias and applying it to a mock case about a physical altercation and possible trespassing at Oasis KGI Commons. Panelists were encouraged to question current disciplinary policies, according to JBoard associate chair Stephen Fatuzzo PO ’23, who said he was pleased with the level of student engagement in the training. 

“[The panelists] asked really good questions,” Fatuzzo said. “We love when our panelists sort of probe and go a little deeper and ask questions about, ‘OK, this policy exists, but why?’”

“We love when our panelists sort of probe and go a little deeper and ask questions about, ‘OK, this policy exists, but why?’” Fatuzzo said.

JBoard hosts a training every semester, with its principal training in the fall. This includes a mock case that serves to acquaint panelists with disciplinary policies, policy violations and sanctioning dilemmas.

A panelist since fall 2020, Jon Bukhart PO ’24 said JBoard’s framework often puts panelists in a position where they need to balance following the student code with pursuing restorative justice.

“How I see it, our function is not to separate people from the community or ostracize them from the community or punish them, it’s more just to strengthen their relationship with the community,” Bukhart said. “That’s where the sanctions come in. We try and focus our sanctions, making sure that they have gained respect for the community.”

The Student Handbook included punishments like fines until 2021, when the Judicial Council removed them from the Handbook. 

“We often talk about restorative justice as restoring the respondent, the person who has violated the code, but we can also think about restorative justice in the sense of restoring the community,” Fatuzzo said. 

“We can also think about restorative justice in the sense of restoring the community,” Fatuzzo said. 

For example, a sanction could include working with Pomona’s maintenance crew for a day so “they have an idea of all the people here that make the college what it really is,” Bukhart said.

In discussing goals for this coming semester, Fatuzzo will be leading a weekly working group that discusses the role restorative justice will play in JBoard. 

“Particular goals will be: Can we come up with an institutional definition for restorative justice?” Fatuzzo said. “How can we write that down in a way that, from panel to panel, will still be applied evenly? And then another question is, how do we codify that?”

JBoard is also launching a peer mediation program in November after three years of development. This will serve as a pathway for alternative resolution from complainants and respondents. 

Incorporating restorative justice into JBoard’s disciplinary policies comes with the mission of changing the institution’s image to one of “trust and respect,” Fatuzzo said. 

“We want to be an institution where if a student violates a policy, they come to us and feel as though we’ll take what they say seriously,” Fatuzzo said. “We will work on a sanction if necessary that keeps their education in mind so that they would come away from that hearing and say, ‘OK, I understand. I understand why I shouldn’t have done that.’”

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