As history tells us and media are suggesting currently, we might expect increase campus demonstrations and work/class stoppages for the presidential inauguration and possibly beyond.
Remember that the Student Code of Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct acknowledges the right to “engage in peaceful and orderly protests, demonstrations, and picketing that do not disrupt functions of the university.” Obviously, there is some grey area there in terms of “disruptions” when it comes to classrooms, and while we don’t offer advice on policy or the Student Code, we do have a few suggestions in terms of teaching and learning.
You cannot prepare for everything, but try to decide what you will do if a student disrupts your class or brings up political issues. CITL’s page on Managing Difficult Classroom Discussions can help you think ahead about how you can handle hot conversations. It can be tricky to deal with class disruptions, but planning a few strategies can help you feel more confident in the moment, rather than reacting in ways that lead more to confrontation than productive engagement.
Focus on Learning
Your approach to acknowledging or engaging a disruption will vary depending on the context, but we always encourage instructors to bring it back to learning. How does your discipline address the topics at hand, both in content and in the ways we deal with contending ideas? Put on your “teacher hat” and keep the focus on disciplinary learning and the needs of your students.
Our treatment of political speech should be fair to all students in the class, so consider your own biases and leanings, and try to address any disruption in an impartial way. And if students miss class for a protest, are you treating them fairly under your attendance policy, no matter what their political stance?
When All Else Fails…
If the disruption makes it impossible to continue class or get through a planned activity, figure out a backup plan or adjusted schedule quickly and convey that to your students. If you can tie it all back to the course content somehow, fantastic, but at least acknowledge the disruption and your plan to get the class back on track.
Finally, if you have a disruption that might escalate to a physical confrontation, call IUPD. That should be a last resort, but it is important to keep your classroom and students safe. If you have more questions or concerns about dealing with classroom disruptions, contact the CITL at firstname.lastname@example.org.