A Letter to the Editor - 01/14/2014
In response to concerns raised in the recent edition of the Faculty Herald about disruptive and dangerous student behavior, I would like to offer additional information for clarification. It is important to recognize that the presiding faculty in the classroom is expected to respond as well as manage the situations posed by disrespectful students, distressed students, disruptive students, or dangerous students. Responding to student disruptions in the classroom can be challenging and requires the employment of strategies specific to the uniqueness of each situation. It takes tremendous thought and preparation, but the type of response applicable to different situations will vary.
A faculty member is the primary authority of his/her classroom. When offending behavior by a student seriously undermines that authority and control, the faculty member may ask the student to leave the classroom until the matter is appropriately addressed (for example, through a meeting, an apology from the student, or a referral to Student Conduct). Removing a student from class for conduct that is disruptive, however, can be challenging. In some cases, asking a student to leave a classroom may escalate a situation rather than defuse it. For this reason, we discourage the idea of removing a student from a class unless other options have been tried and failed. We encourage the use of prevention and intervention techniques of engagement and boundary-setting to avoid disruption or to deescalate existing disruptive behavior. To be sure, when the faculty feels threatened or in danger for him/herself and/or other students, Campus Safety Services should be called immediately for assistance.
Below is a summary of the multiple tools and University resources that may be useful for managing the spectrum of student behaviors you may encounter in the classroom:
• The CARE Team (standing for Crisis, Assessment, Response, and Education) is a multi-disciplinary team that includes faculty. It is charged with addressing troublesome student behavior and determining strategies to support any impacted parties. The CARE Team’s role is not limited to reviewing cases of students struggling with mental health issues; the Team considers all students whose behavior raises concern in or out of the classroom. For CARE Team questions or referrals, call Associate Dean of Students Rachael Stark at 1-9604.
• The Student Safety Nest by Temple’s Wellness Resource Center is an excellent and detailed handbook for faculty members. It describes a variety of specific responses to different concerning student behaviors, including disruptions and threats of violence (pages 24-31 are devoted to responding to disruptive and dangerous student behavior).
• The Teaching and Learning Center provides resources for developing skills to deal with challenging in-class situations. Upcoming are two programs that may be of particular interest:
(1) What would you do? Dealing with Challenging Situations and Students, Feb. 17 and 24th (10:30-12:00, TECH 111); and
(2) the Teaching in Higher Education curriculum for graduate students.
• If you believe a situation should be referred to the Office of Student Conduct or question whether a Conduct proceeding is appropriate, you should call Senior Associate Dean of Students Andrea Caporale Seiss at 1-7188.
• In a situation you perceive to be threatening, you should always call Campus Safety Services at 1-1234.
• Director of the Tuttleman Counseling Services Dr. John DiMino is always available for consultation at 1-7276.
• As the Dean of Students, I am always available for consultation and discussion about student behavior for which you have particular concerns. You can reach me at 1-7188.
The prevention of disruption in the classroom can be best established by setting firm expectations and clear behavioral standards. If students step outside those expectations and standards, or if they behave in any manner which is threatening or dangerous, then communication with one or more of the individuals or offices listed above is key.
Stephanie Ives, Ed.D.
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students