Date of Award

January 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling Psychology & Community Services

First Advisor

Tamba-Kuii M. Bailey


Research suggests individuals’ support for harsher sanctions for wrongdoers increase in association with the perceived severity of the harm caused. To date, however, research has focused mostly on retributive modes of punishment and has less often addressed restorative sanctions. Furthermore, research has documented racial disparities in conduct sanctioning, especially within elementary and secondary school-based settings, with research suggesting that students of color (e.g., Black students) are sanctioned harsher than White students. Surprisingly, racial disparities in student conduct sanctions within higher education settings have rarely been examined. The present study therefore sought to fill a void in the literature by examining the degree to which individuals’ support for types of conduct sanctions (e.g., retributive, restorative, no outcome) differed based on their restorative justice attitudes, global beliefs in a just world and their perceptions of harm severity regarding an incident of sexually based misconduct. Additionally, the present study examined whether there were differences in participants’ responses based on the alleged wrongdoer’s racial identity. Using an experimental research methodology, participants (N = 521) were asked to respond to one of two harm vignettes that varied by manipulation of the wrongdoer’s race. Multigroup Structural Equation Modeling (MG-SEM), a test of measurement invariance, was used to examine the regression pathways, and the model resulted in adequate fit. Results suggested that participants’ restorative justice attitudes and global beliefs in a just world significantly differed from each other; that restorative justice attitude scale scores significantly predicted participants’ support for each conduct sanction type; and that participants’ global beliefs in a just world influenced their support for conduct sanctions by way of their perceptions of harm severity. Additionally, results suggested that participants responded more favorably (i.e., lower harm severity scores, less support for retributive sanctions, and greater support for restorative sanctions) for the Black as compared to White-identified student wrongdoer, however, when considering an increase in perceptions of harm severity scores, participants’ support for the Black-identified student wrongdoer receiving a restorative sanction significantly decreased. An increase in perceptions of harm severity, however, had no bearing on participants’ support for the White-identified student wrongdoer receiving a restorative-based sanction. The results of this research are useful for both restorative and social justice advocates alike, as it provides greater insights that can help address and reform postsecondary campus policies on student judicial conduct practices. Implications for research, advocacy and public policy, education and training, and psychological practice are discussed.