Reformed Disciplinary System Shifts Toward Restorative Justice

At cluster meetings last Thursday, the Deans introduced the Community Standards Committee (CSC), the new student disciplinary process of response to community standards violations. In an attempt to shift away from a punitive process, the CSC system integrates elements of restorative justice and prioritizes student growth, accountability, and support. 

The CSC process categorizes offenses into Levels 1, 2, and 3. In addition to conversations with the Deans and a written reflection (Dean’s letter), Levels 2 and 3 will bring in the Growth and Accountability Plan (GAP), an essential element of the new disciplinary system. 

According to Jill Meyer, Dean of Pine Knoll Cluster, “The goal of GAP is to consider how we can set students up to learn from mistakes without just fearing the punishment. Nothing in the GAP should be scary: attending a talk, writing a reflection, or having a conversation with an adult on campus. Does it let mistakes happen and you walk away and be done? No, you will be thinking about and talking about what happened in the course of your GAP, which will last 10 weeks.”

While the approach to responding to student misbehavior has changed, students are still expected to uphold the same community standards. Specific community expectations and policies can be found in the Blue Book, as well as in the newly released community standards summary, Core Blue.

“The rules are still the same. You are still expected to be good people as you are, to not bully one another, to not harm one another, [and] to not engage in dangerous behavior. Those rules are all still in place, so the Blue Book looks really similar in terms of community standards and the behaviors that we all agree to uphold, but how we respond in moments of misstep has changed,” said Meyer.

Susan Esty, Dean of Students and Residential Life, hopes that the elements of restorative justice will reduce biases in the new disciplinary process. In comparison to previous years, the new system aims to foster fairness between all students in the outcomes of a DC. 

“The biggest thing we did is taking away the use of the [DC] conference time in deciding what the consequence was: censure level, warning level, probation level. It was easier for bias to creep in there, honestly, because you were making decisions in a setting where some students, by their own background and experience, were better equipped to navigate that meeting. And students who were less equipped because of their background and experience perhaps would not get the same consequence because they just didn’t understand the process the same way,” said Esty.

Anny Wang ’26 believes that this is a positive shift for Andover’s student body. Wang stressed that implementing restorative justice can build a stronger connection between students and the community. 

“I believe that some people make mistakes in circumstances where they are not very aware of what they are actually doing, and moving away from punitive terminology definitely gives them a chance to speak up and elaborate on what they were thinking when they made the poor decision…. The change in policy helps the Cluster Deans/directors get a better understanding and definitely pushes the community in a more empathetic way,” wrote Wang in an email to The Phillipian

Lundeen Cahilly ’24, a prefect in Rockwell House, addressed the ambiguities in the new system. Cahilly expressed concerns about the practical implementation due to gray areas in aspects of disciplinary restorative justice at Andover, such as the GAP. 

“There was one optional talk for student leaders, and very early on we got tripped up on certain questions on how vague the system was. It just got into a loop so it wasn’t a very productive meeting. The main concern is, with any new system, that there’s going to be a lot of nervous energy facing it, as it’s starting to be implemented. This system, in particular, is vaguer than the old system in regards to the responses you get, although it’s less vague in the sense that when you make an offense it’s decided what are the possible outcomes,” said Cahilly.