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Teaching & Learning Tip #36: Supporting Our Students

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Tip #36: Supporting Our Students

Contributed by Christine Mata (Interim Dean of Students), Roger Wang (Interim Assistant Dean of Students), and Robert Keever (CARE Coordinator)

Students of Concern

It is important to distinguish when a student is in distress, in crisis, or in an emergency even though all require attention. This will help you better determine whether they require a referral to resources or to call 911. A student in distress would be concerning, but is not in a life threatening situation and they have no imminent safety risks to themselves or others.  A student in crisis would be more urgent, but is not life threatening and may have some potential safety risks to themselves or others. A student in an emergency would be in a life threatening situation and is an imminent safety risk to themselves or others.

Some common signs of distress for student could include:

  • Sudden change in personal hygiene or appearance
  • Dramatic weight gain or loss
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Social or academic withdrawal
  • Disjointed or incoherent thoughts
  • Complaints from others on campus
  • Student isolating themselves from others
  • Excessive tardiness or absence
  • Constantly falling asleep in class or work
  • Intense emotions

When interacting or intervening with students of concern request to see the student in private as this may help minimize embarrassment and defensiveness.  Briefly acknowledge your observations and perceptions of their situation and then express your concerns directly and honestly.  Listen carefully and try to see the issue from the student’s point of view without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing. Be sure not to judge or label the student or shame them for their actions.  Take steps to provide them resources or referrals but only involve yourself as far as you want to go. At times, in an attempt to reach or help a troubled student, you may become more involved than time or skill permits.  However, this does not mean that you may abdicate your reporting responsibilities (i.e., child abuse, sexual assault and other forms of sexualized violence as well as other forms of discrimination).

Disruptive Students

Creating a positive learning environment for all students is a core goal of HSU faculty. Sometimes we can run into obstacles and must work through them. One instance is disruptive student behavior in the classroom. This can create a barrier for the learning environment for all students in the classroom as well as an obstacle for the instructor’s teaching progress related to the course content. It is important to identify and address disruptive behavior as it is outlined in the Behavior Policy. Disruptive student is defined as behavior which interrupts, obstructs, or inhibits the teaching and learning processes. The faculty member determines what is disruptive and has a duty to terminate it. Disruptive behavior may take many forms:

  • persistent questioning
  • incoherent comments
  • verbal attacks
  • unrecognized speaking out
  • incessant arguing
  • intimidating shouting
  • inappropriate gestures

Faculty have the authority and responsibility to establish rules, to maintain order, and to eject students from the course temporarily for violation of the rules or misconduct. If a disruption occurs, faculty must meet with the student privately (e.g., during office hours) and put the student on notice that the behavior is disruptive and any further behavior of this type will result in a referral to the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities and/or possible removal from the course. If you are uncomfortable speaking to the student alone, ask your department chair or another faculty member to be present in the meeting

In cases where a student exhibits abusive behavior, is physically abusive, or threatens physical abuse (e.g. directed profanity; physical disruption of the classroom, or threatening behavior), a verbal warning from the faculty member is not necessary. University Police (dial 911) may be requested to escort the student from the class, and an interim suspension may be imposed by the president. Office of the Dean of Students: (707)826-3504

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