Desiree Anderson

Dr. Desirée Anderson (she/her/hers) was born in San Diego, California. She earned her B.A. and Master’s from the University of Louisville and her Ph.D. from the University of New Orleans studying the use of campus-based restorative justice approaches as a response to racially motivated bias incidents. Having worked in higher education for over 14 years, Dr. Desirée Anderson has committed her energy to address issues of bias and hate on college and university campuses. Before coming to serve as the Associate Dean of Diversity and Student Affairs at the University of New Orleans, she worked as the Director of the Intercultural Center at Saint Mary’s College of California and previously held positions at Tulane University and Texas State University. Desirée occasionally serves as an adjunct instructor and a Restorative Justice Trainer and Facilitator. In her free time, she enjoys reading, singing, dancing, and watching an unnecessary amount of TV, especially kdramas.

"Co-Opting Restorative Justice in Higher Education"

Desirée Anderson brings higher education into the fold of colorizing restorative justice. Much like K–12 educators, college and university administrators increasingly turn to restorative justice to address disciplinary matters. They  gravitate toward this approach, according to Anderson, because relying primarily on legalism proves dissatisfying. Yet, as with legalism, educators continue to focus on specific incidents and the individuals involved, co-opting restorative practices away from the whole-school approach that is their hallmark.

For higher education to benefit from restorative justice more than superficially, Anderson states that these institutions must work at campus-wide ethos building. Vulnerability, compassion, empathy, and intentionality are a few characteristics that help shape the ethos of a restorative community, yet individualism (e.g., meritocracy and competition) and top-down structures (e.g., hierarchy, policies) stamp the ethos of higher education. These two models of ethos do not align.

Mindful of this paradigm-level conflict, Anderson offers practical ideas to keep the restorative ethos—restorative justice’s principles and community-building purpose—central. She poses three insightful questions that re-center us on what really matters when we do restorative justice work: unlearn ingrained socialization.