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Classroom Disruptions

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As faculty members, there may come a time when you have to address misconduct that occurs in the classroom. The Code of Conduct, in describing the Disruption of Operations, includes the following:

"Obstruction or disruption of classes, research projects, or other activities or programs of the University; or obstructing access to University facilities, property, or programs. Disruption is defined as an action or combination of actions by one or more individuals that unreasonably interferes with, hinders, obstructs, or prevents the operation of the University or infringes on the rights of others to freely participate in its programs and services."

To assist you in addressing these types of incidents, the Faculty Senate Committee on Student Life recommended the following guidelines:

Setting clear standards of behavior at the beginning of a course is a powerful deterrent to inappropriate behavior. Faculty members might consider stating their expectations for classroom behavior in their syllabi and define inappropriate behaviors. However, if such a statement is included, the syllabus should also contain a means by which students can address any questions or concerns they have with the standards of behavior policy, and provide contact information for a course administrator or department head for any follow up concerns that may arise. Any changes to such behavior policy should be presented to students in writing per Faculty Senate Policy 43-00.

When students behave inappropriately in class, it is important to confront the behavior as soon as possible. If it becomes necessary to reprimand a student in public, try to do so in a firm and friendly manner. Identify the inappropriate behavior. Explain how it is disruptive to the rest of the class, and request that it not be repeated. Rather than address one individual, it usually causes less embarrassment to use a general statement such as, "There are too many people talking at one time, let's all get focused on the same topic." The student must always be treated with respect and courtesy, not only to role-model civil behavior, but also to keep the situation from escalating.

Faculty have the authority to request that a disruptive student leave a class for the remainder of the period. However, faculty do not have the authority to expel students from class, either on an interim or permanent basis, or require them to drop the course. This can only be done following appropriate University judicial processes and procedures. Meet with the student privately as soon as possible to explain the inappropriateness of his or her behavior. Point out that if the behavior continues, you will have to file a complaint with the Office of Student Conduct. Follow up the discussion in writing, repeating the nature of the problem and what you and the student have agreed is necessary to resolve it. If you are concerned about your personal safety in a private meeting, consider asking your department chair (or equivalent at campus locations) or another faculty member to be present.

If a disruptive student appears to be highly agitated and on the verge of violent behavior, avoid confrontation. Consider dismissing the class and summoning University Police or other appropriate police agency serving the campus. In these serious situations at campus locations having security officers who lack authority to arrest, file criminal charges, or remove a person from the classroom, police should be summoned. Do not attempt to use force or threats of force except for immediate self-defense. Write down facts, identify possible witnesses, and notify your unit leader.

The department head (or equivalent at campus locations) as well as the Office of Student Conduct Director or designee should be notified when continuing disruptions occur. These should be handled through the conduct process coordinated by the Office of Student Conduct Designee at your campus location. Students involved in a serious disruption of the learning environment may not be permitted to return to class until University procedures have been completed.

120 Boucke Building | 814.863.0342 | Contact the Office of Student Conduct