I’m concerned about a student…Now what?

Suggestions from Malcolm Smith, Dean of Students

I have concerns about a student’s academic progress, or they seem particularly detached from the academic environment (not attending class, being distant during a class, or always arriving late).

The campus Early Alert system is an excellent way to report concerns. While many students can become occasionally or momentarily detached, the Early Alert process works best when all such behaviors are reported. The Early Alert response group includes staff from the offices of advising, student development, the registrar, counseling center, athletics, and admission/financial aid. The methods of response range from notifying an academic advisor for intervention to individual contact with a given member of Early Alert. The primary goal in responding to concerns is to provide students with helpful support and information in an effort to help them reengage academically and in other ways.

I have a student who has emotional difficulties, has experienced a difficult event, seems extremely anxious, depressed, etc. What do I do?

Two things can be helpful here. First, feel free to contact Student Development or the Counseling Center Staff directly to consult regarding what you know about the student and possible courses of action (typically, how and to whom to refer a student). Second, feel free to refer a student directly to Student Development or the Counseling Center. If a student has disclosed significant information to you, they may feel more comfortable if you accompany them to a referral with Student Development or Counseling. In this case, you may wish to make the referral call yourself with the student present, and schedule a time when both of you can meet
with a Student Development or Counseling Center colleague. The key issue here is that you “hand off” significant issues rather than assume that you need to figure it out on your own or carry the responsibility by yourself.

See also: Counseling Center FAQs

It seems as though one/some of my students are having a hard time adjusting socially to campus. Is there something I can do to help them?

Engagement in activities outside of academic coursework has shown to not only lead to higher retention and graduation rates, but to overall well-being of students on campus as well (Gallup-Purdue, 2015). Often, students can find their stride in the classroom, but struggle to develop a sense of belonging to their campus as a whole. If you feel this is something a student of yours is experiencing, a conversation with them about their involvement on campus might spark interest in them. You can direct them to the Office of Student Activities to learn more about student organizations, campus programming, and more.

I have a student who is disruptive in class. What do I do?

Contact the Provost’s Office right away. Disruption is an ambiguous term and can mean lots of things. Consulting can help clarify the nature of the disruption and an appropriate course of action. A likely course of action, prior to or after consulting, is to speak directly and privately to the student who is causing the disruption. Talk in concrete terms about the behavior(s) that is/are problematic, explain why they are problematic, and direct the student to cease the behavior. If you believe that you are unable to have such a conversation, be explicit about this when you talk with the Provost’s Office. Student Development can be a helpful resource as well. Student Development cannot, however, share specific information about a particular student. What they can provide is general information about conditions which may affect a student’s learning style and classroom behavior and provide you with strategies for working with students.

See also: Student Development Classroom Behavior Policy

I think a student plagiarized, cheated on an exam, etc. what do I do?

  1. Confirm your concern by checking the appropriate resources (the library’s resources, your own knowledge of resources in your discipline, and so on).
  2. Once confirmed, contact Student Development to report your conclusion. If your report is the student’s first offense (which SD will establish), you will make the determination about the appropriate response or sanction. You may wish to consult with colleagues in your department (without using student names) about their responses to academic misconduct, or with colleagues in the Provost’s Office or Student Development.
  3. Then you will need to meet with the student individually and privately to discuss the matter and your decision about the sanction.
  4. Once done, please send a copy of all relevant materials, plus a written summary of your findings to Student Development who will follow up more formally. If a student has a prior record of academic misconduct, please provide all relevant information to Student Development who will institute the formal campus conduct process.
Determining Sanctions for first offenses:

A determination of plagiarism rests with the reporting faculty member. For a first violation, the faculty member’s judgment about severity, intention, preparation, and other factors weigh into their determination of a response. When faculty members consult with us, we also encourage them to think about a student’s history at K – a first‐year student may have a bit more latitude (in proper citations, for example) than a junior or senior with much more experience. We also encourage faculty members in every single instance to talk to the student about the issue – what was problematic, the proper way of doing whatever was problematic, and soon.

Preventing Plagiarism:

The best advice is for every faculty member to address this issue explicitly during class –what they view as academic misconduct (for example, when is group work acceptable and when does it cross a line?), what the proper citation standards are, what online resources are ok, and so on. Different disciplines have different standards and, in fairness, students need to know what is expected of them. It is best if there is also clarity about these issues on course syllabi so that students can refer to it when necessary. My sense is that there are lots of mistakes that faculty discover and use as teaching moments without calling it academic misconduct.

Why It is Important to Report Academic Dishonesty to Student Development:

We encourage faculty to report every instance of academic misconduct because it is a serious violation. This helps us avoid a situation where a given student can claim that they’ve never done it to five different faculty members (a serial first‐violator, if you will), a problem that we have mitigated in the past hand full of years.

Regarding Student Development’s response when we have a second violation, we look at the information available (often having multiple contacts with the faculty member to fully understand the issue, and always reviewing all of the materials) and in all but two cases that I am aware of have suspended the student. When a student has a first violation, they deal with the instructor and they also meet with Student Development where we discuss the problem, strategies for avoiding it down the road (sometimes it’s as simple as time management, often it involves seeking clarity from their faculty members), and make it clear that a second violation is likely to result in a suspension. The rationale for this strong stance is that academic honesty, what one ultimately does rather than what one intends, is the central value in an academic community. It is the spine from which the rest of the academic structure extends, and we protect it because of its value. So by the time we get to a second violation, we are likely to suspend and students who have a first violation know this.

See also: Academic Dishonesty Policy