Dealing with Disruptive Students

Faculty have the professional responsibility to treat students with understanding, dignity and respect. Students are also expected to demonstrate appropriate, respectful behavior toward other members of the university community, both faculty and peers. Disruptive students in the academic setting hinder the educational process. Disruptive student conduct is prohibited by the Code of Student Conduct, which also enumerates formal actions and remedies for resolving student misconduct issues.

What Constitutes Disruption?

"Disruption," as applied to the academic setting, means behavior that a reasonable faculty member would view as interfering with normal academic functions.

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Persistently speaking without being recognized
  • Interrupting other speakers
  • Behavior that distracts the class from the subject matter or discussion
  • Refusal to comply with faculty direction
  • Inattentiveness, rude, attention-seeking behavior
  • Demanding behaviors
  • Yelling or inappropriate outbursts
  • Stalking behavior or repeated unwelcome advances
  • Inappropriate or odd communications including threatening or intimidating messages, e-mails,  verbal harassment, or excessive communication
  • Monopolizing class discussion time and/or office hours
  • Threats to harm self or others

Prevention

The best time to deal with disruption is before it begins. Faculty can take steps to reduce the likelihood of disruptive behaviors in the classroom.

  • Explicitly state expectations for conduct in the syllabus. Include specifics, such as "turn off cell phones and other electronic devices before entering the classroom." Explain consequences for inappropriate behavior.
  • Review these expectations with students during the first class meeting
  • Model respectful communication with your students.
  • Facilitate respectful exchange of ideas among your students.
  • Respond to problems consistently and in a timely manner.

Handling Classroom Disruptions

In cases of IMMEDIATE THREAT to you or others, immediately call the Department of Public Safety (DPS) at 810.762.3335 or 911.

Otherwise...

  • Have a private conversation with the student to discuss the disruptions you are observing and possible remedies for the situation.
  • Follow up with a written summary to the student, re-stating your expectations and consequences for continued disruption.
  • Students who chronically disrupt classes and interfere with the learning environment may be asked to leave the class.  Public Safety may be called to remove the student if necessary.
  • Consulting your Department Chair or Dean may be helpful in developing a plan for dealing with a disruptive student.
  • Keep records of the difficulties, and your efforts to resolve them, including all written communication. These will be helpful in the case of formal actions.
  • Faculty can consult with the Office of the Dean of Students and may consider filing a formal conduct complaint under the Code of Student Conduct.