Slide 1 - Michigan Community College Student Services Association

What happened to college
civility? How to deal more
effectively with aggressive,
hostile and demanding students
Presented by Dr. Gail M. Platt
Director of the Teaching and Learning Center, Title V
At South Plains College
Week of February 11, 2008
A FORMER student armed with a shotgun
and two handguns opened fire in a lecture
hall at an Illinois university, killing five
and injuring 16 others before killing
It was the fifth US school shooting in a week.
The massacre follows school shootings in
Ohio, Louisiana, Tennessee and California
that left five dead.,21985,23220774-663,00.html
If we want collegiality and
civility, then we must be
collegial and civil. If we want
energy and enthusiasm, then we
must project energy and
enthusiasm. -- Stephen J. Trachtenberg, recently
retired president of George Washington University, from The
Chronicle of Higher Education, November 2, 2007.
Incivility is a serious matter.
From 1994 to 1997, 213 cases of incivility
were published in The Chronicle of Higher
 76% of cases, students were the target
 18%, faculty were the target
 6.5%, staff were the target
Incivility is a serious matter.
Among student cases, race was the dominant
Among faculty and staff, gender was the
According to the researcher, all
categories of incivility appeared to
be on the rise.
“Incivility is speech or action that is
disrespectful or rude. Incivility in the
contemporary classroom may include
insulting or even violent behavior.”
Tiberuis & Flak, 1999.
"Membership in the academic community
places a special obligation on all members to
preserve an atmosphere conducive to the
freedom to teach and to learn. Part of that
obligation implies the responsibility of each
member of the community to maintain a
positive learning environment in which the
behavior of any individual does not disrupt the
classes of teachers or learners” (taken from the
Civility Statement of Northern Arizona University).
Sam Pickering, professor of
English at the University of
Connecticut and the inspiration for
Robin Williams’ character in Dead
Poet’s Society, said that he once
told a student that she needed to
learn civility. “Civility?” she
asked. “What’s that? I’m not an
English major.”
What is civility?
An example of expert handling rude
Employees of an institution set
the climate. Find out what your
institutional policies and
procedures are in regard to
civility and uncivil acts.
Instructional employees have
two essential prerogatives:
1. establish and implement
academic standards;
2. establish and enforce
reasonable behavioral standards.
Support staff, like all college
personnel, are entitled to
establish and enforce reasonable
behavioral standards in their own
work environment (Amado, p. 21).
Guidelines for non-instructional staff
Meet with supervisors and campus officials to
develop strategies and procedures for
dealing with disruptive students.
Put safety measures in place:
A means of ready egress
A system of code words to alert others to danger
A buzzer to a warning system
Reasons for Difficult Situations
Some students may have emotional or
mental health disorders. Some may be
considered disabled and fall under
protection of the Rehabilitation Act of
1973; however, they are expected to
adhere to the same standards of
behavior as any other student.
“The college does not owe a
duty to a student that is higher
than the duty owed by society at
large” Amado (1994), p. 78.
Reasons for Difficult Situations
Physical Reasons
Illegal drugs
Vision/hearing problems
Learning disabilities
Reasons for Difficult Situations
Emotional Reasons
Loss, separation (parents, significant others,
Lack of maturity
Attention seeking
Redirected aggression
Reasons for Difficult Situations
Environmental Reasons
Norms (regional, national, societal)
Class size
Routine and stimulation
Poor lighting
Poor acoustics
Uncomfortable seating, etc.
More severe mental-health problems in
our colleges
A study conducted in 2005 showed that
“It’s not unusual to have . . . people who
are currently suffering from major
depressive disorder, alcohol abuse,
obsessive-compulsive disorder,
schizophrenia, and the like,” John C. Norcross,
professor of psychology at the University of Scranton.
What bothers me most?
What behaviors do I let
What bothers you?
Students who arrive at closing time
Students who fail to keep appointments
Students who argue with you
Students who are “talkaholics” -- even after
their business is finished, they stay in your
office talking.
Students who talk on cell phones when they
are in your office supposedly taking care of
business with you
Students who ________ (fill in the blank)
Another example: What do
you think?
General categories of misconduct
Passive incivility
 not interested
 not involved
 inattentive
Active incivility
 disruptive
 defiant
 disrespectful
Immature behavior
 not coming on time
 talking loudly, using
inappropriate language
Criminal behavior
 cheating
 threats, intimidation
 violence
Although certain
incivilities may bother
you more than others,
do not take these
behaviors personally.
Case Study: JANET
Things to Do
Do stay calm and in control.
Don’t become defensive.
Make direct eye contact.
Maintain an open posture.
Stop talking.
Wait for silence (or ask for silence).
Check yourself.
Are you using authoritarian tactics?
Are you condescending in your tone and
Are you using “loaded” words?
Are you being unreasonable and/or unclear?
Are you being inflexible and/or intolerant?
Are you accelerating unfortunate situations
into really bad events?
Check the facts.
What happened or is happening?
When did it or does it happen?
What happens just before, during and after?
Who is involved?
Who is hurt?
How do you feel about it?
What changes would make it okay?
What did you do and did it work?
Explain objectives and rationale for
policy as you understand it.
Allow students to vent and recognize their
feelings. Let them know that you will not
tolerate verbal abuse.
Immediately report all violations of the law
(including campus policies, rule and
regulations). Document what happened.
Any time student behavior is threatening
towards any person (including the student
him- or herself), contact campus
Be honest.
Don’t make assumptions. The obvious
must be stated.
Emphasize what students should do (instead
of what not to do).
Use consistent standards.
But, it is okay to change your mind if you
learn something new.
Say “No” assertively, not aggressively,
submissively or hesitatingly.
Don’t get into an argument.
Don’t press for an explanation of
Don’t press for an apology.
Avoid threats.
Clearly state what you will do and what you
expect the student to do.
Sometimes students are frustrated about a
situation, and if you don’t make it personal, it
won’t be about you.
Listen without interruption as long as the
student is respectful.
Don’t turn the discussion into a WIN/LOSE
Remind the student that you want to find the
best solution.
Give the student a graceful out.
Remind the student of the policies and
accommodations at the college which might
improve their situation.
Avoid the YOU word.
When a student really gets
under your skin . . .
Professor Pickering suggests that you “go
into your office alone, shut the door and
quote Tennesee Williams, preferably a terse,
ripe phrase, something like ‘Screw you’ or
‘Kiss my ass.’ Afterward open your door,
chuckle, step into the hall, and smile like
the sunrise.”
From Please take my advice, Chronicle of Higher Education,
February 11, 2005.
Civility Statement: Example
Ocean County College defines civility
primarily as the demonstration of
respect for others, basic courtesy,
reciprocity (treating others as we wish
to be treated), and behaviors that create
a positive environment in which to learn
and to work.
Civility Statement: Example (cont’d)
The Trustees of the College and the
College Administration set the tone for
civil behavior through their professional
conduct and through their leadership of
the institution. All members of the
college community create a positive
environment characterized by
considerate and principled conduct
(From Ocean County College, Tom’s
River, NJ).
Civility Statement: Example (cont’d)
While no civility statement can guarantee
considerate and principled conduct, the
values set forth herewith represent
institutional ideals and should serve as
guide posts:
Respect for the work of all persons
Courteous discourse (oral, verbal, nonverbal and electronic)
Honest interactions and utterances
Fair and just treatment
Integrity and keeping promises
Civility Statement: Example (cont’d)
Commitment to the community college
philosophy: Access, transfer, career
preparation, workforce development,
partnering, and community outreach.
Open professional communications
Diversity, professionalism, and collegiality
Free expression of views without meanness
or a desire to do harm
Tolerance of differing points of view .
Civility Statement: Example (cont’d)
These ideals are consistently modeled by those
in leadership positions—in the
administration, staff, faculty, and student
body—and should provide direction for all
members of the college community.
Another Example
Members of the Blinn College community,
which includes faculty, staff and students, are
expected to act honestly and responsibly in
all aspects of campus life. Blinn College
holds all members accountable for their
actions and words. Therefore, all members
should commit themselves to behave in a
manner that recognizes personal respect,
and demonstrates concern for the personal
dignity, rights and freedoms of every member
of the College community, including respect
for College property and the physical and
intellectual property of others (Blinn College
Civility Statement, Brenham, TX).
an infusion of common sense
and good judgment will provide a
better resolution of the problem than
the automatic invocation of a conduct
code” Amada, (1994), p. 15.
Students have a right to express opinions
germane to the subject matter of a course or
institutional policy.
Employees (faculty and staff) have a right to
guide discussion and set reasonable limits.
Setting boundaries
Do not divulge overly personal information
about yourself to students.
You can be friendly without being a friend.
Be increasingly brief if students try to start a
personal relationship.
Do not date students.
Factors Affecting Interactions
What do you
Control what you can control about
Know office/institutional policy and
Know where you have leeway.
Model appropriate behavior. Show
respect and courtesy to your
Define appropriate behavior.
Communication: Fear Center/Danger
Center/Center of Negative Emotion
Amygdala region of the brain plays a role in
fear, anger and rage (about the shape and
size of an almond), located near the back
cortex (where the brain analyzes and
makes meaning of our experiences). It
does not solve problems, create ideas or
plan actions.
Communication: Fear Center/Danger
Center/Center of Negative Emotion
Every situation is quickly and subconsciously
monitored by the amygdala. Research
shows amygdala becomes less active when
we a) see happy faces; b) start solving
The amygdala (red areas) are
almond shaped groups of
neurons located deep within
the medial temporal lobes of
the brain.
Control communication.
Speak in a calm and even voice tone. Do not
escalate your volume. Use a professional
voice, not a personal one.
If the student is angry, ask if they are angry at
you personally.
Ask the student to explain what you have done.
Ask exactly what they are upset about.
Ask the student to suggest a solution that is fair
to everyone (if applicable/appropriate).
Be willing to apologize.
Let students know that you want them to
succeed at your institution.
Express your support and empathy.
Restate your position.
Personality (preferences) as a
tool for effective interaction
A form of the MBTI can be accessed at no
charge through the website below:
At this website, click on the Free Jung
MBTI measures preference.
MBTI does not measure ability.
MBTI does not measure pathology (what is normal
versus what is abnormal).
MBTI is not an intelligence test.
MBTI is easily-biased (if you answer the way you’d like
to be or the way you think you should answer).
Dimensions of Type
<...Dimensions move along a continuum...>
I or E
Your energy source
E’s get their
energy from
without – by
with and being
around others.
I’s get their
energy from
within –
spending time
alone in
reflection and
S or N
How you think
S or N
Ss are Sensors, sensitive to their
environment and preferring to learn
through the senses.
Ns are iNtuitives, preferring to
learn by insight and inspiration.
T or F
How you make decisions
T or F
Ts are thinkers who make decisions
objectively based on facts and logic.
Fs are feelers who make decisions
subjectively based on how they and
others feel about the impact or
outcome of those decisions.
J or P
Plan it?
Wing it?
How you organize and live your life
P or J
Ps are Perceivers, flexible
thinkers, making decisions
based on many observations.
Js are Judgers, rigid and
structured decision-makers who
prefer rules and regulations.
Use your personality* to your
Don’t ignore the
Deal with it
Calm yourself.
Maintain your
professional voice
and manner.
*based on MBTI type
Use your personality* to your
Stay focused on
what is really
Don’t get distracted
by details/minor
Be specific in
identifying the
behavior and the
desired behavior.
*based on MBTI type
Use your personality* to your
Show empathy.
Support the student’s
Explain actions to the
extent you are
Don’t become
Don’t take responsibility
for things you don’t
Don’t assume guilt.
*based on MBTI type
Use information about other
personality types* to your advantage.
I Students
E Students
Appeal to their
preference for
privacy; in a quiet and
inconspicuous manner,
show them
Appeal to their
preference for
attention and
 ask them to take a
deep breath and try to
 respond without delay.
*based on MBTI type
Use information about other
personality types* to your advantage.
S Students
N Students
Appeal to their
preference for
detailed information
processed in various
Appeal to their
preference for the big
picture and “why;”
give them
handouts/handbooks, etc;
show them website info;
tell them what they need to
*based on MBTI type
provide reasons for the
rules/policies or situation;
explain how the policy
benefits students.
Use information about other
personality types* to your advantage.
F Students
T Students
Appeal to their
preference for a
personal connection.
Appeal to their
preference for the
*based on MBTI type
Use information about other
personality types* to your advantage.
J Students
P Students
Provide organizational
deadlines, options.
*based on MBTI type
 Be
 Be constructive.
 Be reactive.
Be proactive.
Provide clear rules and expectations.
Student handbook with clear rules and
regulations, policies and protocols.
Office materials, brochures, policy
statements, etc.
Be consistent.
 Be
Demonstrate respect for students and
expect respect in return.
Compliment appropriate behavior.
Motivate with positive feedback.
Examine your relational/interactional style.
Understand and follow due process policy.
Choosing the right approach
If you are too strict,
you may
If you are too lax,
you may foster
Research shows some teacher behaviors are
correlated with student incivility. Could
these findings also apply in student
Professionals who are aloof with distancing
Professionals who discourage student
Professionals with low level enthusiasm,
clarity and organization (Boice, 1995).
 Be
Attend to the first incident quickly.
Use the college Student Code of Conduct to
address behavior.
Contact Campus Security if necessary.
More people with major mental disorders
are attending college, with recent
improvements in psychotherapy and drug
treatment allowing people to attend
college who earlier would have been too
A general principle
People observe and imitate behavior
that generates acceptance and
results in the desired reward. When
individuals who are uncivil do not
encounter immediate consequences, they
become role models for other students.
Another general principle
If you respond to uncivil behavior
with sarcasm or criticism, you
create an aggressive environment.
What should you know?
Get to know counselors and campus
resources in counseling.
Know how your institution complies with
the ADA.
Know how to contact campus police in
emergency, keeping in mind that it’s best
to notify an administrator before calling
the police (if possible).
What should you know?
Don’t be tempted to “treat” students or
provide therapy.
Let all students know about campus
resources for students with difficulties
or questions.
Your role is to stay focused on your
job/assignment, not how the student’s
treatment and/or mental health is going.
Don’t give into undesirable
behavior. Ignoring it does not
make it go away.
 Document!
 Document!!
 Document!!!
After an incident with a student,
you should write a summary of
the incident and make two
copies. Give one copy to the
student and one to your
supervisor while keeping the
original in your files.
Document behaviors. Do not diagnose
reasons for the behavior or possible
events/scenarios leading up to the behavior.
Just tell what happened.
If you have a preference for a particular
action, indicate that in your documentation.
If a discussion with the student
does not resolve the matter, you
may wish to send the student to
your supervisor.
Avoid Legal Problems
Treat everyone the same. Stick
to written rules and policies.
No exceptions.
 No bending the rules.
Remember . . . Common sense is a good thing.
Students with legitimate learning
disabilities, including mental illness, must
be documented through the appropriate
office. Students who have documented
mental illness should receive no fewer –
but no more – academic accommodations
than a student with a similarly debilitating
physical illness. However, students with
disabilities are expected to adhere to
the same standards of behavior as
any other student.
Students (both male and female) have
greater expectations for female authority.
Stay calm. Aggression and/or sarcasm can
raise the ante.
Do a little investigation.
Safety is most important. Anytime you feel
uncomfortable, you should take action.
Incivility costs.
One study (University of N. Carolina)
28% of people lost work time trying to avoid the
instigator of the incivil behavior.
53% lost work time worrying about the incident or
what might happen next.
37% felt less committed to their organization.
46% thought about changing jobs.
12% changed jobs.
Some suggestions (continued)
Join your professional
organizations and get professional
liability insurance.
The impetus for this presentation and some
content taken from Ronald Johnston’s slide
show at Blinn College, originally found at the
Blinn College website
Information was also taken from Coping with
classroom incivilities, Starlink, October 20,
Amada, G. (1999). Coping with misconduct in
the college classroom: A practical model.
Asheville, NC: College Administration
Benton, T. H. (2007). Remedial civility training,
Chronicle of Higher Education, May 11, 2007.
Boice, R. (1996). Classroom incivilities.
Research in Higher Education, 37(4), 453486.
Bibliography (cont’d)
Carbone, E. (1999). Student behaving badly in large
classes. In S.M. Richardson (Ed.) Promoting civility:
A teaching challenge (pp. 35-43). New Directions for
Teaching and Learning Vol. 77. San Francisco:
Cross, K. A., & Angelo, T. A. (1994). Classroom
assessment techniques. San Francisco: JosseyBass Downs, J.R. (1992). Dealing with hostile and
oppositional students. College Teaching (40)3, 106108.
Eisner, P. A. & Boggs, G.R., eds. (2005). Encouraging
civility as a community college leader. Washington,
DC: Community College Press.
Bibliography (cont’d)
McKeachie, W.J. (1999). Problem students (there’s
almost always at least one!). In W.J. McKeachie
Teaching tips: strategies, research and theory for
college and university teachers (10th ed., pp. 235247). Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath.
Schneider, A. (1998, March 27). Insubordination and
intimidation signal the end of decorum in many
classrooms. Chronicle of Higher Education 44, A12.
Sorcinelli, M.D. (1994). Dealing with troublesome
behaviors in the classroom. In K.W. Prichard & R.M.
Sawyer (Eds.) Handbook of college teaching:
Theory and Applications (pp. 365-173). Westport,
CT: Greenwood Press.
Civility in the classroom
Eisner, P. A. & Boggs, G.R., eds. (2005).
Encouraging civility as a community college
leader. Washington, DC: Community College Press.
References (cont’d)
Classroom assessment techniques
©2008 G.M. Platt, Ph.D.
South Plains College, Library Bldg. 310
Levelland, TX 79336
(806) 894-9611 Ext. 2240
[email protected]