Unfortunately at times the prevention methods presented above are not sufficient to deter disruptiveness. At those times it is important to become active in directly addressing disruptive students and documenting the disruptive behavior. Many faculty and staff, for a variety of reasons, will not address the problem quickly, or will lean toward trying to refer disruptive students to counseling rather than stating their expectations and beginning the documentation process. This is a mistake for a number of reasons.
Often there is the naïve belief that a referral to counseling services will cause the disruptive behavior to stop. While counseling can be very helpful for a wide variety of concerns, and it may in fact eventually have an impact on disruptive behaviors, the reasons for disruptiveness are quite varied and counseling may have little or no initial impact. Students may not be interested in counseling, and may see it as coercive to be referred after a behavioral infraction (which can be counterproductive to establishing the counseling relationship). In addition, valuable time will be lost during which the problem could begin to be addressed.
Such a referral also could serve to distort and undermine the basis for a disciplinary process, namely confronting disruptive behavior and creating a civil community. It also serves to inappropriately transfer the responsibility and authority for administering discipline from where it rightly belongs i.e. the University Disciplinary Committee or other judicial bodies.
The following interventions should be tried when students’ disruptiveness does not abate spontaneously or diminish as a result of the prevention methods described above. They are presented in ascending order from least confrontational and restrictive to most.
Verbally inform students about the specific behaviors that are disruptive (e.g. “When you talk continuously in the back of the room I find it very difficult to teach the lesson. It is distracting and I would like you to stop.”) Then document the conversation.
Document everything in behavioral language (e.g., “Jane Doe talked continuously to her neighbors during lecture on these dates. I asked her to discontinue this practice on ___, however she continued to talk incessantly at every class meeting”).
Involve witnesses to corroborate what you are experiencing. Sometimes when other students are adversely affected by disruptiveness they are more than willing to add documentation to your own. This can be very helpful if a judicial process is begun.
Communicate with your supervisor. It is recommended to involve your supervisor even before you determine that the problem may require disciplinary procedures. Ask for advice and share the burden of figuring out the proper response.
To begin formal disciplinary procedures, consult with the University Code Administrator 1-8531.
At any point in the process, consultation is available with Tuttleman Counseling Services staff 1-7276.