Empowering Faculty —By Annette Barfield

Empowering Faculty

By: Annette Barfield

For many reasons, community college instructors do not feel empowered to implement their authority to discipline in the learning environment.  These reasons could be the lack of training in classroom or learning environment management, the tendency of many faculty to avoid confrontation, or the desire to bend over backwards to help our students who often have multiple barriers impeding their academic success. Whatever the case, it is not worth putting yourself or others in a threatening situation.

Yes, it is very distressing and may seem counterproductive to have to call campus police on one of your students; I get that. However, you have to have a plan, when or if the situation arises.  First, if a situation arises, do not sit on it, contact your dean, discuss it with your colleagues, and contact your union representative- do something.  Our colleagues are our best mentors and advisers; they can be more objective when we cannot be.

Be informed; know your rights.

  • Get familiar with the “Process for a Threat Assessment,” attend campus trainings, invite your LRCFT representatives and Campus Police to your department meeting.
  • On your department meeting agenda’s have a regular item for classroom management, where faculty can discuss student issues.
  • Know the student discipline process for disruptive, but non-threatening behaviors that continually disrupt the learning environment.
  • Attend Flex workshops that focus on safety issues and classroom management.
  • Have the Student Code of Conduct in your syllabus and discuss it the first week of class.

Here at SCC we have a “Crisis Intervention Team” that is chaired by the dean of counseling and includes faculty, administration, and campus police. The members bring a variety of experiences to the team. There was an incident that took place at FLC, where a student had planned a mass shooting during his class. Fortunately, it was prevented and nobody was hurt. But, the sad thing is that there was a file on this student hidden away in an administrator’s desk (who no longer works at the college).  When faculty bring a concern to their dean regarding a student’s questionable behavior or something they wrote in an essay or said in class, it comes to the team.   Most of the time there is an intervention via the instructor, dean or counselor. And most of the time it turns out to be nothing. I understand that this might stifle our most creative students, but in a day of mass campus shootings we have to react quickly and reasonably.  Our student can’t make flippant remarks anymore regarding violence, no more than we can make a joke about a bomb or a gun when sitting on a plane.

I think it is worth saying that campus police are part of the team, as well as faculty and administrators who have direct responsibility for student health, discipline and campus safety.