We as Judicial Board (J-Board) co-chairs wish to express our concerns about the decision to defund the Restorative Justice Coalition (RJC) mid-year. We as the current J-Board chairs were never consulted about the grievances against RJC, or the plan to defund RJC in an official capacity. To our understanding, the previous J-Board co-chairs expressed concerns about the way that RJC was framing their use of Indigenous practices, however, to our knowledge, they did not express support for this type of defunding. As J-Board co-chairs, we are expected to work with and help form relationships between RJC and Honor Council as well as the Senate, and this decision has negatively impacted our ability to maintain these working relationships.
In the Senate Beat published on February 10th describing the Senate Public meeting held on February 7th, it was reported that SB Vice President Sean Brown stated that the three accountability groups (Honor Council, RJC, and J-Board) all attended a meeting with the accountability liaisons. However, this meeting was scheduled for a time slot when RJC members were not available, and therefore their perspectives were not represented at this meeting. This meeting had no formal agenda, and the defunding of RJC was not discussed, nor has it ever been officially discussed in a joint meeting with the accountability groups.
We support the community members who have expressed discomfort with the way that RJC has framed their usage of Indigenous practices. However, we are disappointed that RJC was not given directives from Senate about what changes to their programming were needed, and was not given the opportunity to make necessary changes prior to being defunded.
We would also like to point out that the Senate Appointments Committee (AppCom) is the hiring body for all student body-funded positions, and therefore is responsible for ensuring that diverse and well-qualified applicants are hired for these positions. While Senate has expressed concerns that RJC is not diverse enough, we would like to call attention to the fact that AppCom is ultimately responsible for the promotion and hiring of these positions. Ultimately, Senate, as the hiring and funding body for these positions, is responsible for ensuring that their employees are held to the standards set in their job descriptions. Instead, Senate has attempted to distance themselves from RJC without acknowledging their responsibility as the employer in this situation. Senate’s role on campus is to hire and fund these positions, and, in this situation, we feel they have failed to sufficiently support student workers on RJC to help them implement the changes necessary for RJC to appropriately and respectfully serve the student body.
We understand student body positions, including those on accountability groups, to have contracts with a duration of one school year. The ability of Senate to break these contracts mid-year sets a concerning precedent for the rights of student workers, many of whom rely on this income to support themselves. If RJC can be defunded in the middle of the school year, other student positions can be defunded as well. This hasty decision also occurred outside of the Wage Review Board’s process. Normally, during this process the Wage Review Board audits student body positions and makes recommendations to Senate for changes to wages of Student Body Positions. This process is supposed to give community members not on Senate the opportunity to participate in the decision-making processes regarding wages.
We are also concerned about the potential conflict of interest arising from the number of Senators serving on Honor Council, and their involvement in this decision to defund RJC. We find this to be a plausible conflict of interest, as Honor Council would be expected to absorb the responsibilities of RJC. We feel that the large shared membership between Honor Council and Senate limits each group’s ability to hold the other accountable, and allows Honor Council unique access to Senate which the other accountability groups do not have.
To our knowledge, Senate did not give the community the opportunity to comment on this decision, either through a dedicated public meeting or other communications such as a survey. These measures could better help us understand the community’s sentiments regarding RJC, and how these grievances would best be resolved. The defunding of RJC was announced after this decision had been made by Senators, and therefore did not give the community the notice or opportunity necessary to weigh in. This means that all conversations about this decision happened privately in meetings which the community as a whole was excluded from and no minutes have been publicly shared; therefore we are unable to view the thought process and arguments made in these meetings.
The communication about the defunding of RJC from Senate has been inconsistent. Senate allegedly “forgot” about announcing the defunding of RJC, and it is statements like these that demonstrate Senate’s visible lack of care. The handling of what is an extremely delicate issue– laying off students from incomes they rely on – has lacked transparency to the student body, but most importantly to the student workers directly involved and impacted by this decision. RJC is and has been an important resource for the Reed Community, and for a decision like this to be taken so lightly is shocking.
We also feel that the Quest’s coverage of this issue has been sub-par. For example, the poll posted in the Quest on February 10th does not give the opportunity for free-form responses, which would provide a more productive and nuanced forum for grievances to be shared. Additionally, their “Senate Beat: Let’s Talk About RJ Baby, Let’s Talk About You and Me” title is extremely inconsiderate and inappropriate given that this article talks about the defunding of RJC, which could lead to students workers losing their source of income.
We want RJC to be accountable to the student body for the ways in which they’ve described their practices in ways that do not depict the nuance of the various forms of Restorative Justice practiced by Indigenous communities around the world. However, we feel that defunding RJC without providing them with specific feedback or an opportunity to make these changes is an inappropriate way to hold them accountable.
Ultimately, Senate’s decision has a huge impact on student worker’s ability to financially support themselves, and framing this problem as an issue only pertaining to the optics of RJC is negating the weight of the immediate consequences that this will have on student workers and the precedent it sets by allowing the defunding of student groups mid-year without the involvement of the Wage Review Board. As J-Board co-chairs, we see a value in the work that Honor Council and RJC do on campus to mediate disputes and to build a sense of community in order to prevent conflicts from rising to the level of J-Board cases. We hope that both of these groups can continue to exist on campus in a way that is respectful, professional, and supportive of the student body’s needs.