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How You Can Respond

Consult with the Office of the Dean of Students, your immediate supervisor, the Counseling Center, or University Police.
Enlist the help of someone else, so the student isn't left alone, and you aren't left alone with the student.

If you feel comfortable doing so, invite the student to meet with you for a conversation.  We advise this in situations where there is no immediate danger and where repeated behaviors of concern have not been noted. For this meeting:

  • Meet in a quiet and secure place if possible. 
  • Listen attentively and respond in a straightforward and considerate way. 
  • State specifically what behaviors you have observed and why you are concerned about the student.
  • Outline your goals and (if appropriate) ask the student to outline his/her goals for the meeting.
  • Work to understand what is causing distress for the student. 
  • Acknowledge his/her feelings and let the student know you want to help him/her resolve the problem. 
  • Be non-judgmental and caring. 
  • Listen carefully. 
  • Paraphrase what the student is telling you, so you can be sure you understand the situation.
  • Talk about the situation as a problem that you will work together to solve, suggesting assignment and/or class options that will help the student. 
  • Encourage the student to seek support and assistance from family, friends and others as appropriate, and perhaps to contact the Counseling Center (be sure to give the student the information to do so).
  • Help set up initial meetings for the student with the Counseling Center, Health Center, Dean of Students or other appropriate campus resources.

When contacting a campus resource, have available as much information as possible, including your name; the student’s name and location; a description of the circumstances and the type of assistance needed; and an accurate description of the student.

Note that appropriately seeking help is a sign of strength and not weakness: “We all need help on occasion.”


After discussing the problem with the student, you might need to pursue further action if the behaviors of concern persist. The Office of the Dean of Students is always available for consultation or to provide assistance.

If the situation seems more imminently problematic (i.e., you are concerned about the student’s or your own immediate safety), contact University Police immediately at 315-386-7777.

Responding to Students who are Aggressive or Potentially Violent

Aggression varies from threats to verbal abuse to physical abuse and violence.
It is very difficult to predict aggression and violence.

Threatening mail, phone calls and emails received from a student should be referred immediately to University Police (315-386-7777). 

What You Can Do

  • Assess your level of safety. If you believe you are in danger, call 7777 from an on-campus phone. If you are using a cell phone, call University Police at 315-386-7777.
  • If you feel it is appropriate to stay with the student, remain in an open area with a visible and accessible means of escape.
  • Explain to the student the behaviors that are unacceptable (“I am glad to talk with you if you are willing to speak with me without yelling”).
  • Stay calm and set limits (“So, let’s talk about what is upsetting you, but I want to be very clear that we have to both do this without getting angry. Otherwise, we shouldn’t continue this today”).
  • Use a time-out strategy (that is, ask the student to reschedule a meeting with you once the student has calmed down) if the student refuses to cooperate and remains aggressive or agitated (“I think it is best that we stop for today, but I do not want to drop this so let’s set a time to come back together and then we can both have the chance to settle down”).
  • Contact the Office of the Dean of Students if you or other students/staff/faculty are not in immediate danger to report the concerning behavior at 315-386-7120.


  • Staying in a situation in which you feel unsafe.
  • Meeting alone with the student.
  • Engaging in a screaming match or behaving in other ways that escalate anxiety and aggression.
  • Ignoring signs that the student’s anger is escalating.
  • Touching the student or crowding their sense of personal space.
  • Ignoring a gut reaction that you are in danger.

*Adapted from Ithaca College