Disruptive Behavior

A Faculty and Staff Guide to: Dealing with Disruptive Behavior

STATEMENT OF ACADEMIC EXPECTATIONS PREVENTING

In deciding to attend the University of Arkansas, a student becomes a part of an academic community. As a part of this community, a student makes the choice to devote the necessary time and intellectual energy to ensure success in this competitive environment. The lessons that are learned at the U of A will ensure that one can face and overcome future challenges and continue to be an integral part of today's thinking society.

Instructors and students have a right to an educational environment that is supportive of the learning process. It is the responsibility of instructors to create and maintain this environment. It is the responsibility of the student to act in a manner appropriate for the classroom and adhere to behavioral standards and expectations.

This guide is designed to provide faculty and staff at the University of Arkansas with sound principles for dealing with disruptive behavior, whether occurring in the classroom or elsewhere in the university environment.

Both students and faculty members should ensure that the Principles of the University, specifically, the foundational ideas of integrity, mutual respect, inquiry, citizenship, and connection remain at the forefront of all discussions, interactions and behaviors that occur in the classroom and beyond. Our faculty and academic support services are at a students' disposal to aid them along, but the primary responsibility in guaranteeing success lies with the student.

PREVENTING AND DEALING WITH DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR

It is important that faculty and staff become familiar with the Code of Student Life. You can access this document in the Student Handbook at the following link http://www.uark.edu/ua/uaprod/handbook/. From time to time, you may encounter a disruptive student in the classroom environment. The decisions you make will depend on your knowledge of the Code, your assessment of the level of disruption and your professional discretion.

Professors, instructors, teaching assistants, and staff should learn to address disruptive behavior for the well-being of all students affected by the behavior.

The information contained within this guide is consistent with the UA Code of Student Life. The goal behind this document is to aid you in addressing disruptive behavior in a manner that discourages future behavior while protecting the safety and integrity of the academic community.

Faculty Rights and Responsibilities:

  • To establish and implement academic and behavioral standards
  • To outline expectations, verbally and in the syllabi
  • To address inappropriate behavior
  • To involve other offices (Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs/Dean of Students (AVCSA/DOS), Office of Academic Integrity,  Office of Student Standards and Conduct (OSSC), University of Arkansas Police Department (UAPD), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) when circumstances arise
  • To make a determination regarding possible responses and outcomes for inappropriate behavior within that faculty member's class

WHAT IS DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR?

Disruptive behavior may best be defined as any of the following:

  1. Generally, disruptive behavior is any behavior that inhibits a faculty member's ability to conduct class or limits other student's ability to benefit from instruction.
  2. Conduct, speech or activity that interferes with the learning activities of other students.

Some examples of disruptive behavior include:

  • Physical violence
  • Intoxication
  • Verbal abuse or harassment
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Use of profanity
  • Failing to respect others when they are expressing their viewpoints
  • Talking while the instructor or other students are talking
  • Constant questions or interruptions that interfere with classroom presentations by instructor or students
  • Creating excessive noise

*** Note: It is important to remember that emotional and/or mental distress, or psychological disorders are not legitimate excuses for disruptive behavior in the classroom or in an academic setting. Disability claims and accommodations should be discussed with the Center for Educational Access (CEA) at 575-3104. There are established procedures that should be followed if reasonable accommodations are required.

PREVENTING DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIORS

One way to prevent mildly disruptive behaviors from escalating to disputes, or serious acts of misconduct, is to establish classroom norms that create a civil environment. It is recommended that instructors include a statement in their syllabus to establish behavioral boundaries, which can be discussed with students the first day of class to create an understanding of behavioral expectations and allow for dialogue to address any concerns. A statement in the syllabus might read:

Classroom Behaviors

Students and instructors each have an important role in maintaining a classroom environment optimal for learning, and are expected to treat each other with respect during class, using thoughtful dialogue, and keeping disruptive behaviors to a minimum. In a recent survey on UA classroom civility*, faculty and students identified what they perceive as disruptive behavior in the classroom. Both students and faculty perceive abusive language directed towards others as the most disruptive behavior. Class discussions are interactive and diverse opinions will be shared; please be thoughtful in sharing your perspectives and responses with one another. Other behaviors that can be disruptive are chatting and whispering during class, the use of electronic equipment, reading the paper during class, preparing to leave before class is over, and consistently arriving late to class. Please keep these disruptions to a minimum. Inappropriate behavior in the classroom may result in a request to leave the class and/or a referral to the Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct.

DEALING WITH DISRUPTIVE STUDENTS

Although all disruptive behavior cannot be prevented, an instructor can create an environment that may dissuade certain behaviors. Some examples that may be helpful for professors are:

  1. Demonstrate appropriate classroom behavior through interactions with students.
  2. Use the classroom syllabus to inform students of acceptable standards for behavior and the penalties for infractions. In addition, set clear behavioral standards at the beginning of the course. This discussion time will aid in setting the tone of the course and will aid in keeping disruptions to a minimum.
  3. Review the information in the syllabus during class time at the beginning of the semester.

HOW TO RESPOND TO DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR

Initially, it is best to avoid singling out a specific student. Instead, direct a general word of caution to the entire class. In this way, the student may realize that the behavior is inappropriate and will not be tolerated.

Protocol for Instructors:

  • If a student poses an immediate threat to the safety of themselves or others contact the University of Arkansas Police Department at 911 or 575-2222.
  • Deal with the behavior immediately. The behavior is likely to progress if it is ignored
  • If you observe disruptive behavior occurring during class, make a general statement such as "Let's focus our attention on the material being discussed and discontinue any other side conversations and activities".
  • Do not take the behavior personally. The behavior, in most instances, has nothing to do with you. You are simply the unfortunate recipient of the behavior.
  • If you choose to speak with a student after class, explain why the behavior was inappropriate and inform them of all relevant behavioral expectations for continued participation in the course.
  • If the student's behavior is irritating but not particularly disruptive, you may choose to talk with the student after class. (Examples may include, the use of cellular phones, passing notes, etc)
  • If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe with a student, request that a colleague, department chair and/or member of the AVCSA/DOS staff are present at the time of the meeting.
  • When speaking with a student regarding inappropriate behavior, be sure to conduct these conversations in a private setting.
  • If it is necessary to deal with a student's behavior during class, use discretion to calmly inform the student that the behavior is disruptive and that it must be discontinued.
  • If the behavior continues in a future class, using discretion, ask the student to leave the classroom immediately. Following the class, the instructor should immediately contact the OSSC. The instructor should document and forward all pertinent information regarding any incidents to the OSSC If a student refuses to leave the classroom, you may choose to adjourn the class.
  • Be sure to keep a log of all incidents. This log should include the date, time, location, and nature of all incidents
  • Keep the department chair informed as a situation develops.
  • Save any and all inappropriate emails and document the dates of all inappropriate occurrences in the classroom.

WHAT TO DO IF A STUDENT APPEARS TO BE DANGEROUS

If you believe that a student is dangerous or that a situation has the potential to escalate into a physical threat to you or other members of the University community, call the University of Arkansas Police Department at 911 to report the behavior. If you are confronted with a situation where you cannot contact the police department, please 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. Do not mention disciplinary action or police intervention. If you have already mentioned these, direct the student's attention away from the consequences of his/her behavior. Once the student has calmed down and/or has left the area, the University of Arkansas Police Department and the Office of Community Standards and Student Ethics should be contacted immediately.

Note: The Associate Vice Chancellor for Students Affairs/Dean of Students or his/her designee can remove a student from your class on an interim basis, if the behavior exhibited is continuously disruptive or represents a danger to the instructor, the student, or others.

POSSIBLE SANCTIONS

The Code of Student Life outlines behavior that is unacceptable in an academic community. These standards are designed to aid in fostering an environment where educational growth and development and responsible citizenship can be nurtured. Students who violate the Code will face sanctions. Possible sanctions include:

  1. University Reprimand: A University reprimand places a student on warning status through the end of the next full semester and terminates automatically when the imposed period expires.
  2. University Censure: A University Censure is a warning similar to a University Reprimand. However, a student may be placed on a University Censure for a specified period not to exceed a student's graduation. These records are maintained seven (7) years from the date of sanction
  3. Conduct Probation: This sanction is imposed when a student's actions are found to be serious, but not serious enough to warrant suspension or expulsion. The disciplinary authority shall indicate the length of the probationary period. A student who is placed on conduct probation is considered not to be in good standing with the University.
  4. Suspension: Suspension involves withdrawal of enrollment privileges for a specified period of time and ordinarily carries with it conditions which must be met for re-enrollment. During the period of Suspension, the student may not come onto campus, except when specifically authorized in writing by the VP/DOS or designee.
  5. Interim Suspension: Interim suspension is an action requiring that a student immediately leave the campus and University property, and suspending the student's participation in classes or University activities.
  6. Expulsion: Permanent dismissal from the University.
  7. Mandatory Psychological Evaluation: If an authorized individual has reasonable cause to believe that a student is undergoing severe emotional problems and that a student's continued presence would constitute a danger to him/herself or others, a psychological evaluation may be ordered.
  8. Psychological Withdrawal: If withdrawal is recommended by the Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, the VP/DOS or his/her designee will withdraw the student using appropriate procedures.
  9. Educational Sanctions: Broad arrays of educational sanctions are available to judicial officers in the Office of Community Standards and Student Ethics. Educational sanctions may range from counseling to community service. These sanctions are designed to prompt students to reflect on the violation committed and learn from the experience.

Learn more information on the University of Arkansas Policy on Workplace Violence.

Campus Resources

Vice Provost/Dean of Students for Student Affairs (VP/DOS) 479-575-5004
The office is dedicated to developing quality programs that supplement the in-class experience of students and enrich the quality of campus life.

Office of  Student Standards & Conduct (OSSC) 479- 575-5170
The office is responsible for the administration of the Code of Student Life. The processes and sanctions are designed to redirect inappropriate behavior, while protecting the rights and integrity of the academic community.

University Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 479-575-5276
Staff at CAPS can provide consultation and support for faculty and staff who are dealing with a disruptive student, as well as support for students who are exhibiting disruptive behavior.

University of Arkansas Police Department (UAPD) 479-575-2222 or 911
UAPD can aid in situations where disruptive behavior appears to represent a danger.

For more information, contact:

Daniel J. Pugh, Ph.D.
Vice Provost and Dean of Students
djpugh@uark.edu or (479) 575-5004

Aisha S. Kenner, MS.Ed
Associate Dean of Students for Student Life
akenner@uark.edu or (479) 575-5170

Rachel Eikenberry, M. Ed
Director,Office of Student Standards and Conduct
Judicial@uark.edu or (479) 575-5170