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The University of Mississippi

Responding to Students

Responding to angry or disruptive students

Classroom instructors face many challenges in teaching a diverse student population, and it is expected that students at a university will experience a wide variety of emotions. While many students will be attentive and engaged in classroom activities, others may be daydreaming, bored, distracted or preoccupied. Many instructors have their own effective techniques for working with these students. Those students who come to class under the influence of drugs or alcohol, express extreme anger, or become disruptive, present a greater challenge.

On occasion, a faculty member may recognize that a student is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Faculty members may handle this situation as they choose, but should be mindful that they have the option to refer the student to the University Judicial Council by sending a written complaint to the Office of the Dean of Students. Those faculty members reporting such behavior should be as thorough as possible in providing details of the incident. The University Counseling Center and the Office of Health Promotion provide support for students with alcohol or drug use problems.

It is more likely that faculty members will encounter students who become angry in class. This anger might derive from differences among classmates, discussion of a controversial topic, or a disputed grade on a paper or test. This is to be expected. Anger in a student is not a violation of the Student Code of Conduct nor is it necessarily a threat to classroom order. When a student’s anger manifests itself into disregard for university authority or disorderly conduct, the faculty member retains the same right to report that student to the Office of the Dean of Students.

Responding to emotionally troubled or difficult students

As a member of the university community, faculty members have ongoing and direct contact with students, which places them in a position to identify students who are struggling with personal and/or academic concerns. How involved faculty members want to be in a student’s problems will likely depend on how they see their role in the university, and their training, experience and personality. These guidelines, their knowledge of the services available and their awareness of their personal attributes can help them become more comfortable with determining when and how they wish to intervene with students.

All students will experience some level of stress. Some will face life events that are more challenging such as significant changes in a relationship, the death of someone close, family crises or physical illness. Others will face severe difficulty with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, anger, addictions and even psychotic episodes. How students respond to these challenges and how these challenges affect their academic functioning will vary greatly based on their coping abilities and personal situations.