DEALING WITH DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR
-UT Dean of Students Office-
In deciding to attend Utah Tech University, a student becomes part of our academic community. As such, the student makes the choice to devote necessary time and energy to ensure success in this environment. Students, Faculty, and Staff should make certain the principles of mutual respect and citizenship remain at the forefront of all discussions, interactions and behaviors that occur in the classroom and on campus. Many student services are at students’ disposal to aid them, but the primary responsibility in guaranteeing success at UT lies with the student.
Instructors and students have a right to an educational environment that is supportive of the learning process. It is the responsibility of the instructor to create and maintain this environment. It is the responsibility of the student to act in a manner that is appropriate for the classroom and to adhere to established standards and expectations.
The following guidelines are designed to provide UT faculty and staff with sound principles for dealing with disruptive behavior, but it is still important to become very familiar with the UT Student Rights and Responsibilities Code. From time to time we encounter a disruptive student in the classroom. The best decisions are usually made when the instructor has knowledge of the code and can appropriately assess the level of disruption for the well-being of all students affected by the behavior.
The goal behind providing this information is to aid UT employees in addressing disruptive behavior in a manner that discourages future negative behavior while protecting the safety and integrity of our institution.
FACULTY RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITIES:
- To establish and implement academic and behavioral standards for the classroom
- To clearly outline expectations, verbally and in syllabi
- To address any inappropriate behavior
- To involve other offices (Dean of Students, Campus Police, etc.) when circumstances arise
- To make a determination regarding possible responses and outcomes for inappropriate behavior within the faculty member’s class
WHAT IS DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR?
Disruptive behavior may best be defined as any behavior that inhibits an instructor’s ability to conduct class, or behavior that limits another student’s ability to benefit from instruction – including conduct, speech, or activity that interferes with the learning activities of other students. Some examples of disruptive behavior may include:
- Physical violence, verbal abuse, or harassment
- Intoxication or illegal drug use
- Use of profanity
- Failing to respect others when expressing their own viewpoints
- Talking while the instructor or another student is talking
- Constant questions or interruptions that interfere with classroom presentation
EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL DISORDERS:
Emotional issues, mental distress, or psychological disorders are not legitimate excuses for disruptive behavior in an academic setting. There are established procedures that must be followed when reasonable accommodations are required. Disability claims and accommodations should be discussed with Mr. Baako Wahabu in the UT Disability Resource Center at 652-7516 — or contact the UT Health and Wellness Center at 652-7756 if you feel the student would be better served by a counseling session with a licensed therapist. 2
PREVENTING DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIORS:
The most effective way to prevent mildly disruptive behaviors from escalating to disputes, or serious acts of misconduct, is to establish classroom norms which create a civil environment. It is strongly recommended that instructors include a statement in their syllabus to establish boundaries and expectations for the class. Although all disruptive behavior cannot be prevented, an instructor can create an environment that may dissuade certain types of behavior.
HOW TO RESPOND TO DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR:
Initially, it is always best to avoid singling out a specific student. Instead, direct a general word of caution to the entire class. In this way, the offending student may realize the behavior is inappropriate and that it will not be tolerated. A general statement might be something like, “Let’s focus our attention on the material being discussed and discontinue any side conversations or distractions”.
BASIC PROTOCOL FOR INSTRUCTIONS:
- Deal with the behavior immediately. The behavior is likely to progress if ignored.
- If a student poses an immediate threat to the safety of themselves or others contact UT Campus Police immediately by calling 619-1144 or 619-1145
- Do not take the behavior personally. In most instances the behavior has nothing to do with the instructor. You are simply the recipient.
- If you choose to speak with a student after class, explain why the behavior was inappropriate and inform them of all relevant behavior expectations in order to continue in the course.
- If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe with a student, request that a colleague, department chair or member of the Dean of Students staff is present at the meeting.
- Be sure to conduct conversations regarding inappropriate behavior in a private setting
- If it becomes necessary to deal with a student’s behavior during class, use discretion to calmly inform the student the behavior must be discontinued
- If the behavior continues, or becomes an issue in a future class, ask the student to leave the classroom immediately. Following the class, the instructor should contact the department head, and document all pertinent information regarding the incident.
- If a student refuses to leave the classroom, you may choose to adjourn the class, or contact Campus Police for assistance.
- Always log the incident – including date, time, location, and the nature of the incident.
- Make sure your department chair is informed as any situation develops.
- Save inappropriate emails and document the dates of improper actions in the classroom
WHAT IF A STUDENT APPEARS TO BE DANGEROUS:
If you believe a student is dangerous or that the situation has a potential to escalate into a physical threat to you or others, immediately call Campus Police or 911 to report the behavior. If you are confronted with a situation where you cannot contact Campus Police, utilize the following guidelines:
1. Maintain a safe distance. Do not turn your back on the student
2. Unless you are being physically assaulted, do not touch the student or his/her belongings. This may be interpreted as a threat.
3. Use a calm, non-confrontational approach and manner to defuse the situation.
4. If a threat of harm is present, immediately dismiss the class.
5. Do not mention disciplinary action or police intervention, and direct the student’s attention away from the consequences as much as possible
6. Once the student has been calmed and/or left the area, contact campus police immediately