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Responding to Student Misconduct: Guidelines for Faculty and Staff

Section 1. Student Code of Conduct

  • The Student Handbook/Code of Conduct is designed to clarify expectations for student conduct both on and off campus, academically as well as socially.
  • All campus employees should be aware of the Student Handbook/Code of Conduct and feel comfortable referring to it.
  • View Code of Conduct

Section 2. Tips for Preventing Misconduct in the Classroom

  • Just as instructors determine academic standards and evaluate student performance according to those standards, it is recommended that at the beginning of each term, instructors determine social conduct standards for their classroom (no chatting in class, reading newspapers, sleeping, using cell phones, texting, etc.). For courses with online components, it is recommended that expectations regarding electronic communications be included.
  • Provide specific information in the syllabus regarding your classroom expectations in addition to a reference to the Code of Student Right’s, Responsibilities and Conduct.
  • This not only sends a message to potentially disruptive students but also communicates to all other students that you will ensure a classroom environment free from disruption.

Section 3. Meeting with an Angry or Potentially Threatening Student

  • Do not meet alone with a student who you feel may be a threat to your personal safety. Instead of asking to meet after class, schedule a specific appointment so that you have time to prepare for the meeting. You are welcome to contact the Office of the Dean of Students for consultation prior to the meeting.
  • You should consider alerting and conferring with your Department Chair and/or colleagues of when the student will be meeting with you, and asking one of them to either be on standby or to join in the meeting. Also notify University Police of the time and place of the meeting. An officer can be assigned to that area or be present in the room at the time of the meeting.

Section 4. Identifying the Distressed Student

Over the course of your career at SUNY Canton, you may come into contact with a student you find challenging. It is important to understand the difference between a student having a bad day and a student who may need mental health or substance abuse treatment or intervention. All SUNY Canton students go through a time of adjustment when they come to college. It is normal for students to feel anxious and sad to some degree within the first three months of starting college, as they try to figure out how and where they fit in. Concern should arise when the distress to the student is in excess of what would be expected or if there is significant impairment in social, educational, or occupational functioning. When a student is having difficulty, help is available for the student. Services are available to help assess the student and help them with their needs. You certainly do not have to know how to diagnose, but it is important to be able to recognize when a student is in trouble. Behaviors that you might encounter include:

Academic Problems:

  • Career and Course Indecision
  • Excessive Procrastination
  • Uncharacteristically Poor Preparation or Performance
  • Repeated Requests for Extensions or Special Considerations
  • Disruptive Classroom Behavior
  • Excessive Absence/Tardiness
  • Avoiding or Dominating Discussions
  • References to Suicide or Homicide in Verbal Statements or Writing

Interpersonal Problems:

  • Asking Instructor for Help with Personal Problems
  • Dependency on Advisor
  • Hanging Around Office
  • Disruptive Behavior
  • Inability to Get Along with Others
  • Complaints from Other Students
  • Student Isolating Self from Others

Behavioral Problems:

  • Change in Personal Hygiene
  • Dramatic Weight Gain or Loss
  • Frequently Falling Asleep in Class
  • Irritability
  • Unruly Behavior
  • Impaired Speech
  • Disjointed Thoughts
  • Tearfulness
  • Intense Emotion
  • Inappropriate Responses
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Physically Harming Self

Section 5. Tips for Responding to Students in Distress

If you suspect one of your students is in distress, please express your concern to the student and refer them to the College Counseling Center. Sometimes it is hard to know how to approach the student or what to say to a student who appears to be in distress.

  1. If the student’s issue is one you do not feel qualified or comfortable discussing, please contact the College Counseling Center for assistance (x7314). One question to ask yourself is, “Is the student’s response in excess of their stressor?” If so, intervention is warranted. Also, when it comes to helping students who are upset, in crisis or simply having a bad day, you must evaluate your own comfort level. If you begin to feel uncomfortable or that you are entering territory you are not qualified to handle, refer to the Director of Counseling.
  2. If appropriate, invite the student to talk privately rather than addressing the issue publicly.
  3. Gain an understanding of why the student is upset. This will help you determine if the student is having a bad day or if they need intervention. Start the conversation by saying “If you want to tell me what is upsetting you, I’m here to listen” or a similar conversation starter.
  4. Use active listening and repeat back to the student what they just said. Depending on the situation, you may respond by saying, “You sound very upset, what can I do to help?” or “You sound very upset, would you like to use my phone to schedule an appointment to speak to a counselor?”

» How Do I Report a Concern?

(Adapted from SUNY Potsdam’s BEC Manual with permission)