Beyond Green Dots: Transformative Justice at Notre Dame

This April, Beyond Green Dots (BGD) hosted its first workshop for students interested in learning about transformative justice and how it can be applied to reduce harm in the tri-campus community. The workshop, sponsored by the Gender Studies Program and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, was hosted in two 2-hour sessions – which involved BGD facilitators teaching participants as well as the participants reflecting on their own experiences on campus. 

The name “Beyond Green Dots”  references Notre Dame’s greeNDot bystander intervention workshop, which trains community members to address violence as it is occuring. BGD seeks to go beyond that, and for participants to apply transformative justice in order to learn why harm happens in the first place and how to address it.

Transformative justice is a framework to understand violence and to address it – not only when the harm occurs, but challenging the systems that enable that harm. Working to address issues such as interpersonal violence, child sexual abuse, and mass incarceration, transformative justice advocates understand violence as the result of circumstances and often of past violence, rather than people being inexplicably evil or violent themselves. In our tri-campus community, transformative justice can be applied to problems such as sexual assault or systemic injustices against marginalized groups. 

Early in the training, BGD facilitator Ashton Weber shared the following quote by Mariame Kaba: “no one enters violence for the first time by committing it”, recognizing that violence is often cyclical and can’t be understood as an isolated event. In examining justice at Notre Dame from a transformative lens, Beyond Green Dots analyzes the structures and systems that create a culture that allows violence to occur. 

In the training, participants explored concepts like the hegemonic (socially ideal) Notre Dame student and learned about the University’s historical relationships with marginalized communities — including the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi who formerly stewarded the land, and the University’s past of neglecting queer issues to appease conservative donors. Participants were also invited to reflect on harm they’ve experienced and perpetuated on campus while applying transformative justice principles. A key in addressing violence in the tri-campus community was the dynamic between students of different campuses. The intersection between the privilege of the hegemonic Notre Dame student and the lack of accountability when interacting with Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students creates an environment that disproportionately harms students from the two smaller colleges. BGD emphasized the importance of amplifying the voices of these students and working with the tri-campus community to address these issues. All of these modules highlighted what separates Notre Dame from other institutions and why we need creative solutions that acknowledge these differences to address violence on campus, rather than relying on victims to undergo bureaucratic processes and expecting bystanders to intervene.

BGD drew inspiration from transformative justice groups such as the Barnard Center for Research on Women and abolitionist organizers such as Mia Mingus and Mariame Kaba (whose new book is worth a read).

Transformative justice advocates view accountability as a community process, where a person who has done harm seeks to understand and acknowledge that harm and to make reparations (rather than the carceral mindset that accountability depends on punishment or time served). Rather than focusing on how to punish people, transformative justice asks how both the person committing and the person affected by harm can heal as well as how to transform social and material conditions. Within the context of the tri-campus community, Beyond Green Dots participants reflected on what those conditions might be — such as inter-campus relationships, dorm life and partying, and institutional policies such as parietals or single-sex dorms.

Beyond Green Dots will have another training in the fall semester, and their team is currently updating the curriculum. You can get updates from BGD on Instagram at @beyondgreendots.

Authors

  • Abraham Ortiz is a sophomore from Anaheim, California, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He is involved with Sunrise South Bend, Matriculate, and Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy. He is passionate about environmental efforts like the Green New Deal that recognize the systemic nature of the crisis and its disproportionate affects on marginalized people, liberation movements around the globe that fight class, race, or gender based oppression, and the repatriation of indigenous lands.

  • Ashton is a junior at Notre Dame from West Michigan, studying environmental science. He often attends events for PrismND and Sunrise Movement South Bend, and spends much time on campus going on walks or studying in Club Hes. After graduation, he plans to either attend grad school or do field research in the Midwest or West. Ashton currently serves as editor in chief at The Irish Worker. He is most passionate about environmental issues, from the global climate emergency to environmental racism, and believes that we should work toward a new economic system that ensures the long-term survival of our planet (while also embracing immediate changes such as the Green New Deal). He is also passionate about the issues of policing and incarceration, and believes that both police and prisons should be abolished. You can reach him at abieri@nd.edu, or on Twitter and Instagram @ashton_bieri.

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