Restorative practices in the university: How two professors and a student worked together to resolve conflict
Nov 09, 2012
Altravis sat in the back of my algebra class. He missed class often. His work showed evidence of his struggle. When I focused on him, I could see a look of disengagement. One day as I stood at the front of the classroom discussing a problem, I heard Altravis shout out in frustration. I was shaken and scared. I knew that his outburst had rattled students. After class, I approached Altravis and asked what was going on. He apologized and explained that it wouldn't happen again.
A few weeks later, as I sat in my office, I heard someone cursing in the hallway. I poked my head out of the office and saw Altravis sitting at a study table looking angry. I approached him and asked what was wrong. I explained that he was in a quiet area and that his outbursts were frightening people. I was scared but tried to deal with Altravis as calmly as possible.
When I returned to my office, I realized that I was sweating profusely. I found myself thinking about shootings that had occurred on campuses across the country. What if Altravis decided to come after me someday while I was alone, working in my office?
I decided that I needed to tell someone in Student Services. I wrote to the director, explaining that I didn't feel safe. I asked him what I should do. The director said that he would set up a meeting with Altravis prior to my next class with him. But, due to car trouble Altravis didn't make the appointment. The director read me the email that Altravis had sent to him explaining that I had no need to worry. Altravis’s exact words were, “I’m not a walking time bomb or anything.” Somehow, his choice of metaphors didn't console me.
That’s when I turned to one of our communication professors for help. I knew that she was on the Board of Directors of Restorative Justice. I hoped that she would have an idea about how to resolve this conflict. She did.