A Faculty Guide for Addressing Student Behaviors of Concern

Students frequently, and appropriately, look to faculty for support.  Additionally, faculty can identify a student’s need for support and offer valuable assistance even when the student does not initiate it.

Faculties’ willingness to respond to disruptive or concerning student behaviors will undoubtedly be influenced by your personal style and your particular philosophy about the limits of an instructor’s responsibility for helping students grow emotionally, socially, and intellectually.  Obviously, a student’s openness to assistance, location of the contact, and such situational factors as class size, length and depth of your relationship, may have a substantial effect on the types of interactions you have with a student.

The information below has been prepared to assist faculty in the early identification and effective referral of disruptive or concerning student behaviors.  A “disruptive student behavior” can be defined as any behavior likely to substantially or repeatedly interfere with the normal conduct of instruction activities, including meetings with instructors outside of class.  A “behavior of concern” is defined as any observable action or demeanor that causes reasonable concern for the well-being of that student, or for other members of the University community as a result of that student’s behavior.

It is the aim of the Office of Student Conduct to provide faculty with some useful information and recommendations that have emerged from our experiences in dealing with student behaviors that may better prepare you to assist all students in making optimum use of their education experience at George Mason University.

In determining whether or not to submit a concern report, consider these examples of potential behaviors of concern:

  • Excessive procrastination and very poorly prepared work, especially if inconsistent with previous work
  • Infrequent class attendance with little or no work completed
  • Dependency (e.g. the student hangs around or makes excessive appointments during office hours)
  • Listlessness, lack of energy or frequently falling asleep in class.
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene
  • Impaired speech and/or disjointed thoughts
  • Repeated requests for special consideration (e.g. deadline extensions, make up exams)
  • Threats to others
  • Expressed suicidal thoughts or behaviors of a similarly concerning nature (e.g. referring to suicide as a current option, drawings or essays about suicide)
  • Excessive weight gain or loss
  • Behavior which regularly interferes with effective class management
  • Frequent or high levels of irritable, unruly, abrasive, or aggressive behavior
  • Inability to make decisions despite your repeated efforts to clarify or encourage
  • Displaying behavior that a reasonable person would consider inappropriate under the circumstances
  • Appearing overly nervous, tense or tearful

Before submitting a report or referral, consider doing the following so you can provide as much information on the report as possible to help the Office of Student Conduct or the Student Support and Advocacy Center address the concern and the needs of the student:

  • Talk to the student in private
  • Express concern; be as specific as possible in stating your observations and reasons for concern
  • Explain that the behavior is inappropriate and ask the student to stop the behavior
  • Listen carefully to everything the student says
  • Repeat the essence of what the student has told you back to the student, so your attempts to understand him/her are communicated
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental

When you are ready to submit the report or referral, visit the following webpage:

Incident Report: http://studentconduct.gmu.edu/contact-us/incident-reporting-form/.

Referral: Student Support and Advocacy Center

A member of the appropriate office will follow up with you as part of the referral process.

Disclaimer:  This guide is intended as a collection of examples and recommendations to assist individuals when identifying, reporting and confronting student behaviors of concern.  Because potential behaviors of concern can be varied and nuanced, sound judgment must be exercised along with the recommendations contained in this guide in order to appropriately respond to any situation involving student behavior.