At Carleton University disruptive behaviour is an instructional offence. As defined by the University Calendar, “any student commits an instructional offence who disrupts a class or other period of instruction if he or she:
(a) is a registered member of the class or period of instruction;
(b) is warned to discontinue any act or behaviour reasonably judged by the instructor of the course or period of instruction to be detrimental to the class, and having ignored such warning is ordered by the instructor to leave and refuses to leave.”
Disruptive behaviour can also occur outside the classroom or period of instruction. The term disruptive behaviour does not have a legal meaning and is used to refer to a broad range of behaviour which adversely affects another person’s reasonable expectation to live and learn and work in a safe and respectful environment.
Dealing with Disruptive Behaviour
It is essential that instructors be able to conduct classes without disruption and that students are able to attend and participate in classes without disruption and intimidation. The University administration will fully support all the steps necessary to ensure that this is the case.
When confronted with a disruptive individual who does not respond to your requests to stop, or directions to leave, it is advisable to seek help and advice. Recognising and dealing with such problems are important parts of your teaching responsibility. The student may be causing difficulty in other classroom settings; your role in bringing this behaviour to the attention of the relevant University authorities is critical.
It is a good practice to set our your expectations of student conduct in your class at the beginning of the term when you are making your usual announcements of evaluation procedures, assignments, etc.
For instance, you might say ” I will conduct this class as a series of lectures; please feel free to raise your hand when you have a question”, or “I will allow five or ten minutes for questions at the end of each hour; please save your questions until then.” Students rightfully expect to have an opportunity to ask questions or make comments, as part of the normal give-and-take of the University setting.
You may occasionally encounter a student who goes beyond the bounds of what you have defined as acceptable. Below is some guidance and advice on how to handle disruptive and intimidating students.
Single Occurrence of Non-Violent Disruptive Behaviour
When a student disrupts to the extent that the class cannot continue, you might call a pause in the class and attempt to restore order by talking privately with the student or you might ask the student to stop, by saying “Please do not [and name specifically the behaviour that is a problem] again. I would like you to see me after class.” It is important to warn that student that his/her behaviour is unacceptable. Try to avoid saying “don’t disrupt the class” because students are unlikely to connect that to their behaviour. Instead name the problem behaviour specifically.
If the situation is not resolved with this approach, please ask the student to leave the classroom. If the student refuses and the class continues to be disrupted, you may have to cancel the rest of the class. You should immediately report this situation to your Chair, Director and/or Dean as this constitutes an instructional offence.
Disruptive or Intimidating Behaviour Gradually Emerging Over Several Class Meetings
If a student repeatedly disrupts the normal flow of activities in your classroom or lab, despite your attempts to maintain order, you are advised to do the following:
- Document the incident(s) right away, noting day, time, place, who and what was said and any significant behaviour the student exhibited.
- Discuss the situation with the head of your academic program (Chair, Director or Dean). During this discussion, application of the appropriate academic regulations should be explored. Remember you must warn a student to stop the disruptive behaviour and if he/she refuses, ask the student to leave the classroom. Such disruptive behaviour is an instructional offence.
- If you suspect the disruption arises from an emotional or psychiatric problem, and if you would like the advice of a professional counsellor, contact Health and Counselling Services at 613-520-6674 to discuss the incident with them.
If you feel it is appropriate, and if you feel comfortable doing so, arrange to meet the student either before or after class or during a class break.
This meeting will give you the opportunity to review your expectations of students in your class and indicate how the student’s behaviour is being disruptive. Give the student the opportunity to explain their actions. If it seems appropriate, indicate that there are various counselling services for students available to them on campus and that you are prepared to arrange for the student to discuss the situation with an advisor. Document this conversation as well.
If you do not feel comfortable meeting with the student on your own, arrange with your academic supervisor to have someone else present. You could also choose to meet the student on your own, but have someone “check-in” on you during the course of this meeting.
Most cases are successfully resolved by this approach; the student modifies the disruptive behaviour, or responds to your offer of assistance.
If the student persists in the disruptive behaviour, and refuses to leave the class at your request, call the Campus Police at extension 4444 to assist in removing the student from the classroom.
Keep your Chair, Director or Dean closely informed if the situation should reach this stage. You and your Chair should arrange to meet as soon as possible with a representative of the Dean’s office. The Dean may include other individuals in this meeting. Again, the possible application of the University’s regulations should be explored at this meeting.
In any potentially dangerous situation – for instance, if a student is acting violently, carrying any sort of weapon or threatening someone, call the Carleton Department of University Safety immediately extension 4444 or ask a student in the class to do so. Carleton’s emergency number can be dialled free of charge from any Bell Canada phone on campus. As well, red emergency telephones are located in all buildings.
Assessing Your Teaching Space: How Will You Get Help?
Assess your physical teaching environment (class-room, lab, seminar room) prior to your first class, tutorial or demonstration. Ask yourself:
- How can I avoid being trapped in my classroom or lab by a disruptive or threatening student?
- Where is the nearest telephone?
Three types of telephone exist at Carleton:
1) University Telephones
if you use a University telephone (beige in colour), the the Department of University Safety will automatically be able to locate the telephone you are using.
2) Bell Pay Phones
if you use a pay phone on campus you can dial 613-520-4444 free of charge.
3) Emergency Phones
red emergency telephones are in all campus buildings and computer labs. Use these phones if:
a) a crime is in progress or has just occurred,
b) an accident has occurred and emergency assistance is required,
c) you are being verbally/physically threatened or harassed,
d) you are being followed
e) you are disoriented, feeling anxious or extremely ill, and
f) for any other type of emergency.
emergency telephones, with blue lights, are located in the tunnels and outside along designated pathways. Locations of these emergency telephones on the main campus are shown on campus maps.
How to use the Emergency Blue Phones-–press the large button in the centre of the unit. Immediately a hands free phone link will be established between you and the Campus Safety. The strobe light on top of the unit will begin flashing which may alert nearby emergency response personnel. The phone sends a location signal to the Campus Safety. If you are unable to identify yourself or the situation, a Safety Officer will be dispatched.
Harassment or Intimidation Outside the Classroom
Harassment outside the classroom by one of your students (including during office hours) will be treated in the same general way outlined above. The University’s policies will generally apply on-campus or off-campus in the course of a University-related activity.
Call the Office of Equity Services (613-520-5622) or the Department of University Safety (613-520-3612) for advice and assistance.
If the student’s behaviour becomes extremely agitated, or if you feel threatened or intimidated by a student’s behaviour, get a colleague to join you and call the Department of Campus Safety right away.
We wish to thank the Office of the Assistant Vice-President (Student Affairs) of the University of Toronto for permission to adapt their pamphlet for use at Carleton.
Resources at the University
Department of Equity Services…………………………..613-520-5622
Carleton Foot Patrol…………………………………………613-520-4066
Department of University Safety…………………………613-520-3612
Health and Counselling Services……………………….613-520-6674