A Letter to the Editor - 01/02/2014
I feel that I must respond to the issues raised by Dean Ives in her response to the Faculty Herald article concerning student behavior. I have known Stephanie for years and respect her as a colleague. In the area of student behavior and faculty responses to it, however, I believe that she is mistaken.
As a faculty member, I am expected to have control over my classroom. I make decisions about that environment on a daily basis. I must consider all of the students in my classroom and my own safety when I do so. When a student poses a direct threat to me or to my students, I would expect that the university would back my decision as a faculty member to ask that student to leave the classroom until she or he can behave in an appropriate fashion. I would suspect that if I phone Campus Security when a student poses a direct physical threat to others in my classroom, the student could and should be removed from that setting. A recent presentation to my School’s Campus Safety even noted as much. Indeed, to use the visiting captain's own words, it is 'common sense' that security would do so.
Unfortunately, that is not the position of Dean Ives and her office. I and a series of faculty members have been told how to teach students about civility, how to reference the Conduct Code, how to explain that inappropriate behavior is not, indeed, appropriate. I have learned a great deal on how I can teach a student over the course of a term to act like an adult. At no point, however, have I been told exactly how to ensure that my own safety or the safety of my students is upheld.
I have, however, heard plenty about how to make sure that a disruptive student's due process is noted, how to contact the CARE team under the apparently common notion that all disruptive students need mental counseling, and how to set up a Conduct hearing for the future. Not a single one of these suggestions empowers me to act in the immediate setting in the case of a safety concern or in the case of student being violently disruptive in a classroom. In fact, I was told that if I opted to act otherwise by asking a disruptive, harassing, threatening, or violent student to leave my classroom, I may run legal risks for preventing that student from having access to her or his class.
It is charming what the University Code suggests in terms of faculty concerns and well-being. Under its current means of implementation, however, it does not allow for a faculty member to make immediate decisions concerning the administration of her or his own classroom. Instead, we must rely on classroom management by a panel from Student Affairs, our own safety be damned.
Associate Professor in Strategic Communications, School of Media and Communication