This section is offered as a way of helping personnel set a tone at the university that is incompatible with disruptiveness. To accomplish this we must all be proactive and state our expectations for acceptable behavior. Often, by the time faculty or a staff member reports an incident or series of incidents of disruptiveness, the situation is quite serious. It is our hope that some of these incidents can be avoided by adopting some if not all of the following prevention guidelines.
We recommend that instructors state expectations for civil behavior in their syllabi, as well as state their expectations verbally in class. University departments can state their expectations in print and web documents as well as on signage. References should be made to the Student Code of Conduct, and copies of that document should be abundant and made readily available.
Convey empathy to students who are in distress. At times of high anxiety or agitation, a simple acknowledgment of the student’s feelings can go a long way towards deescalating a situation. For example, if a student comes to a professor tearfully explaining that s/he couldn’t complete an assignment in time due to the death of a pet, it is appropriate to express condolences, regardless of what the expectation might be for making up the work.
If we listen carefully AND check that our message is received we can avoid miscommunication. Often we assume that others are hearing what we intend. The only way to be sure that your messages are received is to ask persons to restate what you have told them.
Anxiety sometimes seems to be contagious. That is, when exposed to someone who is highly anxious, it is possible that you too will begin feeling anxious. It is important to remember that you have a choice about whether or not you will become “infected” by anxiety. It is preferable to manage your own anxiety so as to convey a feeling of containment to the student. Remaining calm often serves to help the student calm down.
It is also important to acknowledge that when students express anger it is not always irrational, or due to feelings of entitlement, or due to a “disorder.” Sometimes it is a response to real frustrations or injustice. When faced with a student’s anger it is important to understand its meaning. Choosing to remain calm when faced with a student’s anger is the first step in maintaining or restoring civility. Giving encouragement and praise when appropriate can be very helpful to the student, and helps to restore a feeling of calm.
It can be seen as a supportive and caring gesture to suggest that a student receive emotional support by going to Tuttleman Counseling Services. It is also good practice to avail yourself of emotional support and advice by seeking a consultation from Tuttleman Counseling Services staff. This may serve to clarify the issues around disruptiveness and mental health issues.