On Monday, Dec. 7, Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco sent out an email to the campus community announcing the establishment of the Restorative Justice Commission at UMass Boston, and he called for nominations for the newly established commission.
In an email interview, Dr. Joseph Cooper—Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Black Life, an Associate Professor who also serves as the inaugural Dr. J. Keith Motley Endowed Chair of Sport Leadership and Administration, and co-chair of the RJC—provided some insight regarding the newly formed, anti-racism and health focused Commission.
“The newly established RJC builds upon the work of the Restorative Justice Initiative, which was a sub-group of the Academic Continuity Task Force that was formed in the late Spring and early Summer of 2020 in the wake of highly publicized anti-Black police violence, the growing pandemic, and widespread societal unrest,” wrote Dr. Cooper.
“The [ . . .] RJC is a formal structure established by the Chancellor to optimize new and continuous efforts that will improve campus conditions, embody anti-racism, and foster health promoting experiences and outcomes for students, staff, faculty, and the entire UMB community and beyond,” according to Dr. Cooper.
Dr. Cooper also commented on other leaders who will be part of the Commission. According to Dr. Cooper, the other co-chair of the RJC will be the Assistant Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Georgianna Meléndez.
“The new Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (current Dean Joe Berger) will also be involved in a leadership capacity with the RJC upon the start of his new position in February 2021,” added Dr. Cooper.
In his email, Dr. Cooper also outlined the most prominent goal of the RJC.
“The main goal of the RJC is to lead the university's efforts to develop an anti-racist university community through the ongoing development of specific policies, programming, trainings, curricular interventions, and institutional practices,” wrote Dr. Cooper.
The RJC already has a list of actionable steps that they will be taking to foster an environment of anti-racism and health promoting efforts for UMass Boston.
“Immediate efforts will include consistent evaluation of the racial climate on campus; recommendation plans for providing anti-racism education, programming, and training; the identification of and engagement in appropriate shared governance processes for addressing areas of improvements; the strengthening of anti-racist academic and co-curricular programming; the development and support of models that value faculty and staff contributions to equity, diversity, and inclusion in teaching, scholarship, and service; and the suggestion of health promoting and anti-racist enhancements to general education requirements,” wrote Dr. Cooper.
In his email, Chancellor Suárez-Orozco explained that the Commission will be made up of 20 members of the UMass Boston community. Faculty, staff members, undergraduate students and graduate students are all welcome nominations. Campus community members may also self-nominate if they feel they would make a good member of the Commission.
“The most important trait in a nominee for the Commission is a demonstrative commitment to collectivism for anti-racist efforts,” wrote Dr. Joseph Cooper. The Chancellor stated in his email that the University is looking to “develop a diverse, representative commission” through the nomination process.
The RJC plans to begin to meet early in the Spring 2021 semester. Nominations are currently being accepted, and will continue to be accepted until the beginning of that semester.
To submit a nomination to the RJC, please send an email to email@example.com.