Keene State Implements Restorative and Racial Justice Programming with New Grant
As part of a broad college-wide initiative to support community, Keene State College was awarded a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab to implement a joint project that includes Restorative Circles around community-building and racial justice work, and spiritual programs to support faculty, staff, and students during the stressful COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab is excited to see the work that Keene State is doing to support the community through restorative circle practices,” said Michael Skaggs, the Lab’s Director of Programs. “This is exactly the type of support that the Luce Foundation is prioritizing in this grant program.”
Keene State is launching community-building restorative circles this semester that cover a variety of topics and points of discussion. These include deconstructing whiteness, hosting book circles about Fania Davis’s The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice, holding Women of Color Circles, and gathering to explore womanist practices. Restorative justice practices include a broad spectrum of processes that focus on building relationship and truth. These programs will provide a place for college community members to cultivate relationships with one another, learn more about managing conflict resolution, co-create inclusion and diversity work going forward, reconcile the different truths and life experiences that each person holds, and grow understanding of our sense of shared responsibility while hearing multiple points of view.
“At Keene State College, we pride ourselves on our community connections. Restorative justice practices invite us to make space for the complexities of our lives, encourages us to witness each other’s journeys, cultivates vulnerability and empathy skills, and builds capacity for us to dive into difficult work around systemic issues,” said Kya Roumimper, coordinator of Multicultural Student Support and Success at Keene State. “We are strengthening our community, and restorative justice practice is a tool we can utilize along the way.”
Through the grant, Keene State is also hosting groups of faculty, staff and students to discuss the pandemic, to help cope with its mental and physical impacts. The goal of these conversations is to help community members share their experiences so that they can in turn be more successful and supportive in their own day-to-day efforts and work.
Cynthia Cheshire, director and campus minister with The Newman Center, said, “So many of the difficulties we’ve all faced over the past year are spiritual including disconnection, injustice, grief, the loss of routine and ritual, even the feeling that Zoom just isn’t the same as an in-person meeting. In addition to restorative justice initiatives that will help heal our community, this grant will fund workshops, events, and creative outreach programs that help the college community as we encounter these spiritually-based challenges and discover new tools to process them.”