What to do...continued:

Some students can and will push limits so it is important to remain neutral and calm and refer to behaviors throughout the conversation. Do not "diagnose" or make assumptions about the student. Seek a healthy balance in setting limits in a professional way while stating your support for the student. One example of this balance would be a statement such as: "Diana, I appreciate your enthusiasm for answering questions, and I value your comments and want you to continue to participate. But, you've been repeatedly interrupting me as well as other students, and it's important that every member of the class, myself included, has a chance to express their thoughts and cover class materials. I want to see you succeed in my class, and a way I ask that you do this is to raise your hand when you want to make a comment or ask a question. Sometimes you'll have to wait your turn to talk, and there may be times when I call on other students. There may even be situations when there isn't enough time for everyone to talk. In the syllabus, there's a statement about being respectful to one another. Interruptions are not respectful. I put that clause there so that everyone feels welcome to participate, including talking without being interrupted. Does that make sense?" If the student concurs, then you have given her due process, and not only have you identified the problematic behavior (the interruptions), but also the remedy (i.e. raising her hand and requesting permission to speak).

In situations when you think that it would help the student to know about campus resources, ranging from academic support services to the library to counseling services, begin by making the suggestions gently, and in a private way, so that the student does not feel she is being singled out in front of her peers (i.e. "It might help you to know that math anxiety is common, so much so that we actually have services on campus to help students with this concern" or "Diana, thank you for letting me know how stressed you are. I appreciate that you've gone through a hard time lately. It takes a lot of strength to share this kind of information and I respect you for it. Perhaps it might help to talk about ways to address your stress with one of our counselors"?). Finally, as the conversation draws to an end, I would recommend you query the student and listen to the student's response. A general way to do this is: "I hope this makes sense to you; do you have any questions or concerns"?

The final step I would suggest you take is to document the situation. Include the date, time, and content of the conversation and hold onto it, storing it in a confidential location. Avoid labeling a student (i.e. "Diana seems to have an anxiety disorder", or "I suspect Darren was high"). You can document your notes informally and consider these to be personal notes. Or, you can document more formally, perhaps memorializing your conversation in an email to the student with a cc to your Dean, and Chair or Coordinator. Always write in an objective, behaviorally based, and factual manner. Write your documentation as though it would be read by the involved student or parent or through a FERPA request. Your notes will be a helpful resource. Let's say Diana continues to interrupt in class. Then you can look back on the notes to make sure you've given her due process. And, in your second conversation with her, you can refer back to the initial conversation, and begin to talk about taking more formal measures, such as invoking the Student Code of Conduct. You'll have documentation to share with others (i.e. your Chair or Coordinator or Dean, and the Student Conduct Officer). Bear in mind that FERPA, the law that governs student records, does not bar you from sharing information about a disruptive student. You can learn more about Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act on the College's FERPA webpage. And, in instances that involve actual or potential safety related concerns, you should never be reticent to share information with other bodies intended to address and/or prevent violence, such as the Police, HEAT, or Conduct Office.

Remember...it's all about balance. Both faculty members and students have rights. Students rights include the right to respectfully question and challenge us, and voice their opinions. Students have the right to be eccentric. Students have the right to be in psychological distress, and/or have a psychological condition. Students have the rights to have a disclosed or an undisclosed disability. Students have the right to be entitled and self-centered. Students have the right to have their own cultural expectations and political views. Students have the right to have a criminal history. Students have the right to be Veterans. Students have the right to engage in utilizing resources on or off campus, or to decline to do so. In short...students are human, just like us, and have good days and bad days, unexpected events in their lives, physical ailments, break-ups, financial hardships, and so on. It's when student behaviors become disruptive that student rights end, and faculty rights begin. When this takes place, it is time to take action, because students do not have the right to be disruptive, violate the policies you establish in your syllabus (and possibly in your Department), or violate College policies, such as the Student Code of Conduct, or Title IX. And, students do not have the right to bully, intimidate, become violent, or otherwise create distractions from the learning environment.