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UTSA creates more inclusive environment by adopting restorative justice practices

UTSA creates more inclusive environment by adopting restorative justice practices

JULY 26, 2021 — The UTSA Office of Inclusive Excellence is providing the university community with the opportunity to have important conversations for processing and reflecting on their many feelings as they prepare to return to campus for the fall 2021 semester.

With the opening of the UTSA Office of Restorative Justice, the only office of its kind at a Texas college or university, the institution is leading conversations on challenging issues that affect its community while providing its students with a platform to foster civil dialogue through a series of presentations called Community Conversations.

To date, the Office of Restorative Justice has hosted six Community Conversations in collaboration with the Multicultural Student Center for Equity and Justice.

“People from all backgrounds need to be part of the dialogue to help develop common sense policies and campus practices.”

Past Community Conversations include Post-Election and Moving Beyond Together; Reflecting on the Events at the U.S. Capitol; Reflecting, Healing, and Reconnection One Year After Going Virtual; and Processing and Healing From the Painful Racist Events in Atlanta.

Additionally, the institution is providing its community with access to restorative justice practices. Restorative justice focuses on resolving conflict using a relational approach instead of a legal approach by creating a safe space to humanize challenges and bring people together to develop a solution.

Robert Rico ’01, ’04, director of the Office of Restorative Justice, will oversee the development of a system of restorative justice practices to improve the disciplinary practices in the UTSA campus community.

“Our new office is serving as an avenue for bringing people together to engage in peaceful dialogue to discuss critical issues that affect faculty, students and staff,” Rico said.

“I am excited to have Robert Rico as the inaugural director of the Office of Restorative Justice,” added Myron Anderson, vice president for inclusive excellence at UTSA. “His skill, expertise, and passion to systemically integrate restorative justice practices our community will serve us well.”

Rico has long been a champion for restorative justice practices. He was introduced to the philosophy in 2004 as a graduate student at UTSA.

“I really felt that traditional punitive justice didn’t allow offenders the opportunity to repair the damage done,” Rico explained. “There had to be another way other than punishment to hold people accountable for their actions—an intervention.”

A first-generation graduate, Rico is an advocate of non-punitive approaches and specializes in restorative justice and police-community relations. His work focuses on policing methodologies by using restorative justice and community policing philosophies.

“People from all backgrounds need to be part of the dialogue to help develop common sense policies and campus practices,” Rico said. “There needs to be more discussion on current topics that affect our campus community.”

“The Office of Restorative Justice,” Rico added, “will provide a sense of belonging and will provide UTSA students with the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns.”

⇒ Learn more about the UTSA Office of Inclusive Excellence.

UTSA is also providing faculty and staff with focused training to build a more inclusive environment. Training topics include bias and its impact, misgendering students who are transgender, microaggressions, and other tools to strengthen UTSA’s diverse community.

“When looking at the inclusive excellence ecosystem and the historic and current social justice landscapes, this office will play a significant role in bringing people together, amplifying understanding and providing proactive and reactive support for our faculty, staff, and students in our quest to create a more welcome and inclusive campus,” Anderson concluded.

Ingrid Wright

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UTSA’s Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.