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Wednesday, January 11

Disruptive Behavior in the Classroom

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JANUARY 11, 2017

Dear Chairs and Directors,

The issue of disruptive classroom behavior has been a frequent topic of discussion, prompting my office to gather and disseminate some resources and guidance for faculty; please forward this message to the instructional faculty and GSIs in your unit. We will make a point of recirculating this message and materials every semester with the expectation that you will do the same.

Broadly defined, disruptive behavior is any action that interferes with a harmonious and cooperative learning atmosphere in the classroom. Such student behavior not only disrupts and negatively effects the overall learning environment for students but also contributes to instructors' stress and discontent.  Incivility and disruption in the classroom may rise to the level of offensive, intimidating, or hostile behavior that interferes with students’ ability to learn and with instructors’ ability to teach.

In the unfortunate event that faculty experience any kind of incivility and disruption in their classroom, LSA asks that they contact their Chair/Director and describe what happened. The Chair/Director should then contact 1) his/her Associate Dean and 2) Assistant Dean Esrold Nurse. Dean Nurse oversees the Office of Student Academic Affairs, which addresses a range of student issues including disruptive behavior. He is also LSA’s main liaison to the University’s Dean of Students Office. Together we will assess the situation and formulate a plan to address the behavior of the student and support the faculty member.

Of course, if anyone feels threatened, Dial 911 immediately. The UM Police Department will respond and will coordinate with the Ann Arbor Police if required. If there is an incident that may be interpreted as a hate crime or that makes a faculty member feel threatened in any way, contact UMPD and they will advise about appropriate next steps.

Below are some useful resources to help faculty feel prepared for such an incident in case disruptive student behavior is experienced in a classroom, office, or lab.


• The Handbook for Faculty and Instructional Staff has a section on Classroom Conduct (see especially pages 11-12) that includes a list of relevant contact information
• CRLT’s Incivility in the Classroom resource page; see especially "Reducing Incivility in the University/College Classroom:" http://cetl.olemiss.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/83/2016/03/ClassroomIncivility.pdf
• CRLT has also added a series of resources around inclusive pedagogies and responding to difficult moments and controversies, especially after the 2016 election season: http://www.crlt.umich.edu/multicultural-teaching
• The Office of Institutional Equity: an excellent resource in cases of discrimination or bias
• The Dean of Students Office for issues of Campus Climate and Student Critical Incidents

I am also attaching a video featuring Al Young and Mark Chesler discussing these issues.