It is hoped that warning signs are heeded and that steps are taken early to deescalate a situation. However this is not always possible and at times danger is imminent and needs to be dealt with immediately. In the book The Gift of Fear the following are presented as possible warning signs of violence: inflexibility; adverse reactions to criticism; blaming others for the results of one’s own actions; paranoia; use of threats; intimidation; manipulation; escalation; unrealistic expectations; sullen, angry, or depressed affect; history of filing grievances; history of assault or behavioral offenses; and hopelessness.
It is very important that individual instructors decide for themselves the point at which disruptiveness crosses over into the category of danger. No faculty or staff member should have to put up with bullying or intimidation or worse. It is also recognized that different faculty and staff, due to their own histories, will have very different thresholds for perceiving danger. For this reason the following definition of a dangerous situation is offered:
A dangerous situation can be defined as one in which a student (or anyone) poses a serious threat to themselves, to you, or to someone else. This may include verbal threats of bodily harm, physical intimidation or assault, sexual assault, and threats of suicide or homicide.
If a student is highly agitated, remember that you should not meet with that person in isolation, or at all if you feel unsafe. As a general rule, as the level of perceived threat increases, it is important to inform your supervisors and enlist their assistance. Usually department chairs have a role in listening to all sides of a situation and determining what other agents of the university should be involved to restore order. At that time contacting a CARE team member (see below) is recommended. Doing so can add to a feeling of safety and also afford the consultation that may help you assess a situation properly. It is well known that under stress our ability to assess situations and make good decisions suffers. Asking for help also enables you to share responsibility for the outcome.
The following options are available if it is believed that a student (or anyone) poses a threat to themselves, to you or to someone else: Immediately call Campus Safety Services 1-1234, to restore order in the event of an imminent threat or physical violence. If mental health issues seem to be present, in addition to the involvement of police, Tuttleman Counseling Services 1-7276 staff may have a role. If students are not an imminent threat and are amenable to going to Tuttleman Counseling Services for an evaluation, mental health staff will assess the students’ needs and make recommendations about the next steps to take, as in cases where hospitalization may be indicated.
After the emergency has been dealt with it is important for all parties to document the event in writing.