Managing Inappropriate Student Behavior: A Guide for the Faculty and Staff of Wright State University
2. As you are leaving the building, you notice your
student walking home alone in the dark. Is it appropriate to offer
Yes, because you are genuinely concerned about the student's
No, because the student may misinterpret your offer.
Either A or B may be correct depending on the situation.
These and many other dilemmas are faced daily by faculty and staff.
Counseling and Wellness Services (CWS) staff are able to offer consultation
and workshops to faculty and staff on how to best handle difficult
interpersonal situations with students. This booklet includes descriptions
of common student problems and strategies for effectively addressing
Depression is the most common problem affecting college students.
It has been reported that 78% of college students will demonstrate
some symptoms of depression in any given year with only half of these
students seeking help for their depression (Beck & Young, 1978).
Because depression can have a serious impact on a student, it is an
issue that warrants everyone's attention.
As with most problems, it is helpful to intervene as soon as possible.
By being better able to recognize the symptoms of depression and knowing
what course of action to take, you may assist depressed students in
pursuing changes that will result in a lessening of their depressive
Some signs of depression include:
flat affect (inexpressive face)
a decrease in their interest in course material
expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness
agitation or irritability
failure to complete assignments
An internal indicator of a student's depression may be whether YOU
feel depressed or somewhat hopeless when speaking with the student.At
times, depression can lead students to experience thoughts of suicide.
A study completed by the Centers for Disease Control in 1995 found
that roughly 10% of students surveyed had contemplated suicide. The
CDC also reported that 13.7% of completed suicides in 1997 were by
young adults between the ages of 15 and 24.
Some warning signs of suicide include:
comments suggestive of wanting to die
history of recent significant loss
some direct statements about wanting to kill oneself
behavior such as giving away favorite possessions
"I just want to sleep forever"
"I don't care if I'm assaulted"
"I don't care if my car hits a tree"
Take the issue seriously.
Remember that people who are evidencing suicidal behavior are
often crying out for help.
Directly ask the student if he or she is feeling depressed or
Remember that people often reach out directly or indirectly
to those people they think will take them seriously.
Note that friends may be minimizing their feelings by telling
them everything is 'all right' or 'everything will get better.'
Try not to threaten, admonish, or reproach a depressed student
for not attending class or for falling behind in course work.
Attempt to find ways of working out the problem with the student,
(e.g., alternate projects, incomplete grade).
Do not leave the student alone.
Making the appropriate referral to Counseling and Wellness
If you are in doubt about the seriousness of the situation,
contact Counseling and Wellness Services (3407)
or Public Safety (2111) immediately. Do not hide your concern for
the student and allow the student to remain present when you make
the call. Explain why you are concerned and how you feel professionals
can be helpful. Be caring, honest, and direct in your communications.
The use of alcohol and drugs is a problem that is present at many
different universities. The serious problems that students can encounter
with substance use may follow them after college, and in some cases,
cause a student to withdraw from school. Students with substance abuse
issues are often difficult to handle due to their denial of a problem
being present. In working with these students it is important to be
patient, as well as persistent.
Wearing inappropriate clothing, i.e. long sleeves when hot,
sunglasses when cloudy or in class
Deterioration of physical appearance over time
Change in quality of work
Poor physical coordination, i.e. difficulty talking or walking
Withdrawal, isolation, depression, and/or fatigue
Communicate your caring and concern for the student
Speak honestly and directly about the behaviors
Be well informed about alcohol, drugs and their
Avoid being judgmental, "The use of marijuana
Avoid coming across as having all the answers
Refer student to Counseling and
Wellness Services for an evaluation
ANGRY & UPSET STUDENTS
How to handle angry and upset students:
Do not physically touch the student. Respect the student's
Find a quiet corner away from others so you may talk privately
with the student.
Keep your voice soft and your speech pattern a bit slower than
normal so the upset or angry student will have to listen carefully
in order to hear you.
Seek clarification of the problem. What is it that the student
sees as the real problem? What does the student believe would
be the solution to the problem?
Apologize if the fault is yours or if the fault is in the system
(e.g. students kept waiting for their appointment) "I am
sorry you had to wait to see me but I can give you my full attention
how. How can I help you?"
In any disagreement remember that a satisfactory conclusion
has to leave both parties feeling they can accept the conclusion.
It is prudent to do the following:
Try and see the problem from the student's perspective,
as well as your own.
Listen carefully, do not work on counter arguments while
the student is speaking.
Solicit suggestions from the student about a possible solution
to the problem.
In extreme situations where it appears that no reasonable compromise
can be attained, be pleasant but firm, "I am sorry that
you are not satisfied with any of the options we have discussed.
Since this is the case, I suggest you pursue a different course
of action which may be able to accommodate your request."
If you become concerned for your physical safety, remove yourself
from the situation, move to a public location, and contact Public Safety
(2111) for assistance.
Losing a loved one is difficult at anytime. Losing a loved one while
in college can be especially difficult because of the inherent stressors
of being in school. Reactions to the loss of a family member or friend
are varied. Initial reactions are often intense; the student may attempt
to deny the loss or possibly 'shut down' emotionally. It is important
to recognize the additional support your students will need during
their time of bereavement. There is no single pattern of how one will
grieve, expect each student to respond in their own way. Be supportive
in a manner that attempts to match what the student is needing while
also expressing care and concern.
Some suggestions for working with a grieving student include:
Be willing to listen, especially if the student is talking about
a lost loved one.
Avoid clichés and platitudes like "Time will help" or
other things that may minimize or invalidate someone's experience.
Suggest counseling (CWS - x 3407)
Be flexible and willing to extend deadlines, allow opportunities
to make up work, or provide other support.
Expect that time will be required for the student to return
to where s/he was before the loss occurred.
SETTING APPROPRIATE STUDENT & FACULTY/STAFF
Relationships between students and faculty/staff are varied and unique.
Working more closely with some students will afford you the opportunity
to develop closer relationships to those individuals and further assist
in their development as a student and adult. It is also important to
remember that student's expectations of their relationship with faculty/
staff may differ greatly from your expectations of the relationship.
In order to maintain effective relationships with your students it
is helpful to give some thought about how to create the most rewarding
relationship for everyone.
Some suggestions for maintaining appropriate boundaries with students
Communicate respect for students and for yourself.
Consult with a colleague about sensitive issues or concerns
involving your relationships with students.
Consider how the different cultural backgrounds of each person
may affect their expectations in relationships.
Consider the roles that you wish to take with a student.
Consider when a referral to another person may be beneficial
for you or the student.
Note what draws you to certain students or what distances you
Understand and clarify your reasons for making exceptions to
your policies for particular students at particular times.
When or if a sexual attraction to a student occurs consult with
a trusted colleague(s) or other professional.
Working with a diverse student population can present unique challenges.
Issues related to race, ethnicity, gender, physical, emotional , or
socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation may require increased
sensitivity, knowledge, and self-exploration. Providing a welcoming
and comfortable environment where individuals feel that components
of their identity are recognized, valued, and respected is critical.
Some suggestions for facilitating an open environment include:
Be aware of resources offered by different campus organizations
and assist your students in utilizing them.
Be respectful of student's world view, i.e. What is important
to them, what is considered taboo.
Understand there may be a conflict between academic and cultural
Attempt to determine what the problem is from the student's
viewpoint. Be aware of the differences in the meaning of words
across various cultures.
Be aware that different norms may exist in dealing with male
and female students.
Ask what might make the student more comfortable to talk with
Appreciate physical boundaries that some students need.
Students who have experienced a traumatic event will have reactions
to the event which often times indicate signs of psychological stress.
Students who witness traumatic events are likely to have stress reactions
as well. Psychological stress is a normal response to a traumatic event,
however, students may need assistance in coping with their own reactions.
Because university students are dealing with a number of inherent stressors,
the addition of a traumatic event may feel overwhelming. It is very
important to not minimize the students' reaction, but rather to listen
to them and offer support and an appropriate referral when necessary.
The student seems "keyed up" or "on edge"
Problems with sleep/concentration
A sudden decrease in academic performance
The student is depressed, sad, or feels numb or hopeless
Recurring thoughts or nightmares about the event
Avoiding activities or places associated with the event
do not try to "solve" the problem with an immediate
do not minimize their reaction
inform the student their reaction is in fact normal and expected
allow students additional time for academic work
refer the student to CWS (x 3407)
REFERRALS, CONSULTATION, & WORKSHOPS
The Counseling and Wellness Services staff are available to assist
you in addressing student difficulties. In referring a student for
services, you or the student should call 775-3407 to schedule an appointment.
If the student is in crisis or feels an urgent need to speak with a
therapist, we offer crisis walk-in services from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.
The staff at CWS are available to consult with you over the
phone. Phone consultations often help the faculty/staff member provide
the student with the best course of action. We also offer workshops
on a wide range of topics. Workshops are generally 30 to 60 minutes
in duration and provide another avenue for faculty and staff to impart
valuable information to students. To schedule a workshop contact either
Dr. Micky Sharma (Associate Director) or Dr. Robert Rando (Director)
at 775-3407. Helpful information may also be found at: www.wright-counseling.com
Micky M. Sharma, Psy.D.