Skip to main content Skip to main content

Suggested Faculty Guidelines for Classroom Disruption and Conflict


Metropolitan State University of Denver is committed to creating an environment of work and study where classroom activity is focused on learning and demonstration of mastery of a subject. In the classroom, freedom of expression on academic subjects is respected and encouraged for students and faculty alike, within the framework of the course syllabus and student and faculty codes of conduct. Student conduct that unreasonably disrupts classroom activity must be addressed promptly and effectively if the learning objectives of the course are to be achieved. It is important that everyone in the class be aware of and take responsibility for the preservation of an atmosphere of mutual respect and civil dialogue in the classroom.

The following guidelines are designed to assist faculty members who may encounter a disruptive student:

1. Faculty members have the right to manage the classroom environment. The instructor has the authority and responsibility to control the classroom in the interest of covering the subject and providing an optimal educational experience for all students. The faculty member may set reasonable time limits for discussion by the class as a group and by individual, assess and comment on the quality and relevance of ideas and expression, and conduct the class so that participants are heard in an orderly manner. The individual faculty member is encouraged to exercise this authority firmly but with a sense of fairness, balance and respect for student ideas.

2. Classroom disruption that is persistent to the extent that progress cannot be made should be seen as a disciplinary offense. The term "classroom disruption" means behavior a reasonable person would view as substantially interfering with the progress of the class. Examples include but are not limited to: repeatedly leaving and entering the classroom without authorization, making loud or distracting noises, persisting in speaking without being recognized, and/or resorting to personal insults and challenges, taunts, crude behavior, physical threats or contact.

3. Both students and faculty members have academic freedom. MSU Denver policies on classroom disruption should not be used to silence dissent from the majority view or the instructor's view. The peaceful and respectful expression of a disagreement with the faculty or other students is not in itself "disruptive" behavior, even if it is couched in passionate tones and overblown rhetoric.

4. Rudeness and disruption are related but distinguishable. In most instances, it is better to respond to rudeness by example and persuasion (e.g. advising a student in private that he or she appears to have a habit of interrupting others or that s/he could make a more effective and persuasive argument if s/he lost the habit of characterizing the adversary as "an idiot"). However, rudeness can become disruption when it is persistent, especially after a warning has been given and if it takes substantial class time to deal with behaviors as distinct from ideas.

5. Strategies to prevent and respond to disruptive behavior include the following:

a. Clarify standards for the conduct of your class in your syllabus. For example, if you want students to raise their hands for permission to speak, or you do not allow cell phone usage in class, let the students know from the beginning. Set the tone, both verbally and in writing, from the outset.

b. Serve as a role model for the conduct you expect from your students. They take their cues from you.

c. If you believe inappropriate behavior is occurring, consider a general word of caution, rather than warning a particular student (e.g. "We have too many conversations at the moment; let's all focus on the same topic.").

d. If the behavior is irritating, but not disruptive, try speaking with the student after class. Most students are unaware of distracting habits or mannerisms, but have no intent on being offensive or disruptive.

e. There may be rare circumstances when it is necessary to speak to students during class about their behavior. Try to do so in a firm and friendly manner, indicating that further discussion can occur after class. Public arguments and harsh language should be avoided. If it becomes necessary to speak to a student privately, this can be accomplished either both informally and verbally or in writing, depending on the atmosphere that emerges. From this point on, ALL encounters should be documented.

Below are some possible recommendations for handling a student’s challenging behavior:

  • Suggest to the student that concerns and ideas must be voiced one at a time, and that each person is responsible for their own thoughts, emotions, and actions.
  • Upon hearing the other student's story, repeat what was heard to avoid misinterpretations from the beginning.
  • Brainstorm with the student regarding possible solutions to the difficulty - feel free to be creative in this process - then try to select the most likely resolution to the difficulty together.
  • Clearly articulate the responsibilities of each party for making the proposed solution a reality.
  • Set a timeline for future meeting(s) to assess the success of the solution, and to make modifications, if necessary.

f. A student who persists in disrupting a class may be directed to leave the classroom for the remainder of the class period. Whenever possible, prior consultation should be undertaken with the faculty's Department Chair and a Student Conduct Officer, who can be reached at (303) 615-0220. Dismissal of a student for more than one class requires consultation with a Student Conduct Officer.

g. If a disruption is serious and other reasonable measures have failed, the class may be adjourned and the Auraria Campus Police may be summoned to an on-campus class by calling 911 from a campus landline or by calling 303-556-5000 from a cell phone. Except in extreme and very rare cases of a violent physical attack that poses a real threat of bodily harm, faculty should not use force or threats of force. Prepare a written account of the incident and identify witnesses for the police as needed. After the immediate incident has occurred, contact the Student Conduct Officer as soon as possible.

6. The Student Conduct Coordinator can help by reviewing disciplinary regulations with you and meeting with student(s) formally or informally. It is preferable to report disruptive incidents promptly, even if they seem minor. One strategy is to develop behavioral agreements with students so they have clear guidelines about what behavior is expected of them. In very serious cases, the Student Conduct Officer can immediately suspend students, pending disciplinary proceedings or medical evaluation.

For advice on issues of a mental health nature, such as depression, suicidal issues, psychotic issues, life changing circumstances (e.g., death of family member, divorce), etc., contact:

MSU Denver’s Counseling Center
Phone: 303-615-9988

For further information contact:

Dave Haden, Associate Dean of Student Engagement & Wellness or the Student Conduct Coordinator
Phone: 303-615-0220
Fax: 720-778-5749

Appropriate Referrals for Faculty & Staff Complaints Against Students

Type of Complaint

 Contact Office

 Location

Phone 

 Academic Dishonesty

Department Chair/Director AND
Student Conduct

 TV 311

 5-0220

 Student Misconduct

 

Auraria Campus Police (if appropriate) OR

Counseling Center (if appropriate) AND
Department Chair/Director AND Student Conduct

 AD 110
 TV 651

 TV 311

 6-5000
 5-9988

 5-0220

Ethnic, Racial or Sexual Discrimination:
Includes Harassment and Intimidation
Student-to-Faculty

Equal Opportunity Office AND
Department Chair/Director

 SSB 440

 5-0036

 ADA Discrimination

Equal Opportunity AND
Department Chair/Director

 

 SSB 440

 5-0036

 Other ADA Related Issues

ADA Coordinator AND/OR
Department Chair/Director

 PL 150

 5-9999