Promoting Civility in the Classroom

Disruptive conduct is on the rise on campuses across the nation. In fact, college instructors often experience, on a daily basis, students who are chronically late, talk to friends during class, eat or sleep in class, and engage in arguments with instructors or other students. EMU is not immune to the rise of student disruptive conduct. Since the 2000-01 academic year, EMU has experienced a gradual increase of cases involving student disruptive conduct.

Disruptive behavior is a violation of the student conduct code and should not be tolerated. Section V.E.1. of the code defines disruption as “…[a]ctions that impair, interfere with or obstruct the orderly conduct, processes and functions within any classroom or other instructional setting. This includes interfering with a faculty member’s or instructor’s role to carry out the normal academic or educational functions of his/her class.” The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards firmly supports faculty and their right to a safe and dignified classroom. Faculty are encouraged to address disruptive behavior and seek out support when necessary.

To prevent and address general disruption, consider the following strategies:

  • Clarify standards for the conduct of your class. Consider adding a statement about disruption to the course syllabus.
  • Serve as a role model for the conduct you expect from the students.
  • If it is believed that inappropriate behavior is occurring, consider a general word of caution to the class, rather than warning a particular student.
  • If the behavior is irritating but not disruptive, try speaking with the student after class.
  • If confrontation is required, try to do so in a firm but friendly manner. Indicate that you need to speak with the student after class. Avoid public arguments and harsh language.
  • If the disruptive conduct persists, direct the student to either stop the behavior or leave the classroom for the rest of that class period. Inform the student that you will call DPS, if necessary.
  • For serious disruptive behavior, adjourn the class and call DPS. Do not use force or threats EXCEPT in immediate self-defense. Prepare a list of witnesses to present to DPS.
  • For disruptions that don’t reach an extreme level, contact the Student Conduct and Community Standards for a consultation.
  • Advise students that disruptive behavior in violation of the conduct code may result in a referral to Student Conduct and Community Standards. In such cases, an investigation and formal discipline record will likely result.


It is rude to talk when someone else is speaking. If you must carry on a discussion with another member of the class, be respectful to others and leave the classroom.

If it goes beep, ring, or makes distracting noises, turn it off before you come to class.

Everyone is expected to act in a civil and disciplined matter. Anyone violating the above policies will be excused from class.

- Civility Statement from University of Florida Science Courses


When addressing more severe or repeated disruptive behavior, keep in mind that there are three main categories of disruptive conduct (Hernandez & Fister, 2001). Each category warrants a different course of action. The following chart provides a summary of how to assess and handle disruptive behavior of a more severe nature.

Behavior Procedural Consultation and Resources
Student Conduct and Community Standards
Public Safety (extreme cases)
Incoherent Statements
Personal Hygiene
Suicidial Threats
Counseling Services
Students with Disabilities

If the safety of the student or others is of immediate concern, contact EMU’s Department of Public Safety at 734.487.1222.

If you are planning to meet with a student and are fearful about the interaction, some options are:

  • Inform colleagues about the meeting,
  • Leave the door open,
  • Meet in a public area such as a conference room, and/or
  • Bring a colleague into the meeting.


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