Faculty Focus


Strategies for Dealing with Student Misconduct

Campus safety issues remain a critical concern for the higher education community. During the past 10-15 years, incidents of disruptive behavior have increased on colleges campuses nationwide. For college administrators, choosing the appropriate response can make a big difference in the outcome of the situation and the student’s future at your institution.

One of the biggest campus safety questions academic leaders face is whether to refer a highly disruptive student to the institution’s mental health system or judicial system, says Dr. Gerald Amada author of Coping with the Disruptive College Student: A Practical Model and co-founder of the mental health program at the City College of San Francisco.

“In my experience, college mental health services can be invaluable but they should be viewed as a consultative resource to faculty and administrators in such cases rather than as a resource for treating the student who is highly disruptive,” Amada says. “The judicial system is the superior system in dealing with misconduct because it immediately results in adverse consequences for the student and can bring about the most serious of consequences, forfeiture of the student’s educational privileges.”

In the recent online seminar, Student Misconduct: Guidelines for College Administrators, Amada outlined some of the principles and strategies needed for dealing with disruptive behavior, including how and when to intervene on a faculty or staff member’s behalf, and how to strike the right balance between trivializing an incident and overreacting.

How to Document Student Misconduct
Because student misconduct could easily escalate into a legal issue, documentation is critical, Amada says. By documenting the incident not only are you safeguarding yourself from memory failings, but you’re developing a cumulative written history of someone who quite possibly has behaved inappropriately elsewhere on campus.

Amada recommends using an official campus form or stationery for all documentation and to include the following information:

  • What the student said or did
  • The larger context of the incident
  • What the complainant did in response
  • Number of times incident occurred
  • Prior warnings the offender has received.
  • Resolution the complainant is seeking.

The report should exclude speculation (e.g. I think this student is mentally ill.) as well as behavior that’s not subject to the student disciplinary code of conduct