Classroom Disruptions

What is disruptive?

"Disruption," as applied to the academic setting, means behavior that a reasonable faculty member would view as interfering with normal academic functions. Examples include, but are not limited to: 

  • Persistently speaking without being recognized or interrupting other speakers
  • Behavior that distracts the class from the subject matter or discussion
  • In extreme cases, physical threats, harassing behavior or personal insults, or refusal to comply with faculty direction (see the Student Code of Conduct)
  • Protest demonstration

Civil expression of disagreement with the course instructor, during times when the instructor permits discussion, is not in itself disruptive behavior and is not prohibited.

Some disruptive students may have emotional or mental disorders. Although such students may be considered disabled and are protected under the Rehabilitation Act/ADA, they are held to the same standards of conduct as any student.

According to the university Student Conduct Code, prohibited student conduct includes:

  • h. Conduct which egregiously and/or repeatedly has negatively impacted or constitutes
    a nuisance to members of the surrounding off-campus community, which violates federal,
    state or local laws/ordinances or;
  • i. Conduct which severely impacts or strains emergency response abilities in the
    surrounding community.

Strategies for handling classroom disruptions

Managing classroom behavior can be challenging.  Consider these recommendations from Dr. Lisa Rodriguez.

What happens when you report?

When a faculty member reports a classroom disruption, the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards determines if a policy violation occurred (common violations might include preventing the class from occurring or disrupting the ability for the faculty to proceed with class, direct or indirect threats, and/or abusive conduct).

If the disruption is not an immediate policy violation, the OSCCS advises that the faculty provide feedback about the student’s behavior, re-assert expectations around classroom discussion and participation or email communication to the faculty member, remove participation points, and/or ask the student to leave class. The OSCCS can also do an informal outreach to the student to offer the opportunity to discuss the incident and their faculty member’s expectations.

Should the behavior continue after the faculty member has documented that they addressed it, the OSCCS can begin a formal conduct process because the student may be charged for violating policy by not complying with directions from a university official.