This page contains resources that can help create support in our classrooms and on our campuses during times of stress.
(Please note that the links below have not been fully vetted and/or adopted as policy or practice by Columbia University. They serve as a means for additional guidance and support.)
Common Faculty Questions about Addressing Disruptive Student Behavior
Request the student cease the behavior and suggest alternative behaviors. Explain that should the behavior continue, you will ask them to leave. If the student refuses to leave or there is a direct threat, contact Public Safety (contact information for Public Safety is listed further in the document) and request assistance. You are also encouraged to submit reports to the Center for Student Success & Intervention.
Send an email to the student addressing the specific assignment and objectively detailing the issue, (e.g., “You had a number of short answers where you appeared to be deliberately offensive with your responses. This is neither acceptable nor appropriate for an assignment submitted for a grade. Should you not know the answers, the appropriate response would be to leave the question blank. Please note that anything in writing which could be deemed harassing, threatening, or discriminatory in nature may be forwarded to the Center for Student Success and Intervention for review of violation of the Standards and Discipline.”)
Submit a report to the Center for Student Success and Intervention.
Respond to the student, addressing any valid concerns, and then share your expectations for appropriate communication. Share that if the student wishes to interact regarding an issue via email, their future emails should not include profanity or be belligerent in nature. Future behavior not in alignment with your set out expectations may be referred to the Center for Student Success and Intervention.
Tell the student, verbally, to stop because they do not have permission. If they do not stop, call Public Safety to request assistance and also submit a report to the Center for Student Success and Intervention. Make it explicit on your syllabus that video recording is not permissible.
Without cause, the University cannot prohibit students from attending class or an event. If there is an outburst in class, you can ask them to leave. Only the Center for Student Success and Intervention can prohibit students from attending class after providing the student process outlined in the Standards and Discipline.
If you believe a student is in immediate danger of self-harm and is in New York City, first call 911, then call Public Safety.
- Main (212) 854-2797
- Emergency (212) 854-5555
- Main (212) 853-3301
- Emergency (212) 853-3333
- Main (212) 305-8100
- Emergency (212) 305-7979
They will determine whether a welfare check is required, and who else might need to be notified.
If there is no immediate threat, call and consult with Columbia Health (Morningside and Manhattanville) or Student Health on Haven (CUIMC) to share information and discuss the best way to connect the student with mental health care. You can also contact their Dean of Students to coordinate support at the school level. Academic accommodations for students can also be a critical way to support them, especially during times of great stress.
If the direct threat occurs in the classroom, inform the student this is inappropriate behavior and is disruptive to the classroom and ask them to leave. If they refuse to leave, contact Public Safety and request assistance. Once the situation is calm, you can ask the impacted individuals if they are okay to continue with class conversation. You can also refer students to the appropriate counseling offices and seek consultation from them regarding next steps for those impacted.
Document the incident and contact Public Safety.
If a student reports being threatened outside the classroom by a classmate, refer them to Public Safety (call Public Safety if the students are willing). Share with the student that Public Safety will be able to take a report/make a record and make a determination if there is a greater issue/threat assessment.
Submit a report to the Center for Student Success and Intervention so they can determine if there was a policy violation and provide the appropriate follow up.
If a student would like a confidential resource, refer the student to Sexual Violence Response, counseling services (see below), or the Ombuds Office. Since these are confidential resources, it will offer the students the most options that will preserve the students’ choices as to whether to participate in an investigatory process.
As faculty are mandated reporters and cannot offer confidentiality, all allegations of harassment must be reported using this form.
It is important not to make promises or assurances (e.g., do not assure the student being victimized that the accused student will be charged, will be removed from the classroom, etc.).
If you are concerned for a student’s well-being in any of the above scenarios and there is no immediate or direct threat, please consult Columbia’s Blue Folder for guidance and consult with the appropriate counseling office based on campus. If you believe that there may have been a violation of the Standards and Discipline , you can consult with the Center for Student Success and Intervention and/or submit a conduct report.
How staff might navigate student questions in person regarding University statements:
- Acknowledge the concerns, questions, feelings, and anxieties of students.
Sample response: “While I cannot comment/speak for the University, I can and will share your concerns/questions with senior leadership.”
Classroom & General Resources for Working with and Supporting Students Through Stressful Times
Faculty and staff are uniquely positioned to show care and compassion for students experiencing distress. Identifying and addressing a distressed student is an important part of supporting them and keeping our University community safe and thriving. Student distress can present itself in many ways. Having the tools to identify, address, and refer students appropriately is important as you interact with them.
Emotionally distressing events beyond the classroom can impede teaching and learning. Adopting pedagogies of care can help navigate times of stress and challenge. Below are three tips drawn from the Center for Teaching and Learning’s on-demand resource Teaching in Times of Stress and Challenge.
- Check in with your students and connect them to campus resources. Gauge how your students are doing by checking in with them before, during, or after class, or during office hours. Connect your students to campus well-being resources, and empower them to seek help from Columbia Health.
- Acknowledge what is going on. Students appreciate instructors that acknowledge what is going on in the world beyond the classroom, and that they may be experiencing challenges. Recognize that students may have a hard time concentrating on learning, completing activities and assignments, or remaining motivated to engage in class or outside of class. Build in flexibility to support your students’ success in your course.
- Take care of yourself. Seek out the resources (e.g., through the Office of Work-Life and Human Resources) you need in order to be able to show up for your students.
These moves can help students feel a stronger sense of support and belonging, which can help both faculty and students navigate any challenging conversations that might arise in the classroom.
The CTL is available for one-on-one consultations with all faculty and instructors. Please reach out to arrange a time to talk about additional strategies for teaching during stressful times.