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Students in Distress and Disruptive Students

Students in Distress

Students dealing with personal concerns and in distress typically show some outward signs that they are struggling in some way. How you go about helping a student will depend on several factors: their level of distress, the nature of your relationship, the type of setting you are in and your comfort level. The CAPS website provides information about how to help students in distress.

Disruptive Students

The classroom is meant to be a place where the free flow of ideas is encouraged and nurtured. It is not a forum for students to make hurtful and demeaning remarks, or otherwise disrupt the teaching of the class. From time to time, however, instructors may encounter students who act in ways that seriously disrupt the instructional process of the classroom. As a first step, you may wish to first consult some of the resources compiled by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) which include strategies for responding to incivility in the classroom as well as for managing other difficult classroom moments.

When confronted with disruptive students, here are key points you should keep in mind:

  • Trained colleagues, including mental health professionals, are available to assist instructors in responding to students.
  • The Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education (Office of Student Academic Affairs) can take disciplinary action, up to and including removal from the classroom, if students engage in destructive behavior.
  • If at any point you, as an instructor, feel threatened, or there is a safety concern in your classroom, the University of Michigan Police Department (UMPD) should be called (3-1131). (Emergency: 911).

Note that many campus offices often work together to find appropriate outcomes when classroom instructors are confronted with difficult cases. While protecting the instructional process, every effort is made to ensure that students are treated fairly and with compassion.

Campus and College Contacts:

The Office of Student Academic Affairs
Location: 1213 Angell Hall
Phone: (734) 764–7297

Web site: Student Academic Affairs

The Office of the Student Academic Affairs can serve to facilitate the appropriate response in the event that a student is disruptive and assist in finding a suitable outcome.

Dean of Students Office
Location: 3000 Michigan Union
Phone: (734) 764–7420

Web site: 

The Dean of Students Office is responsible for overall management of critical incidents and emergencies across the University. Students, parents, faculty, and staff can contact DOS if they identify a student struggling with a challenge or unmet need.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
Location: 3100 Michigan Union
Phone: (734) 764–8312

Web site:


CAPS offers a variety of short-term personal counseling, educational, and skill-building services to students, including crisis intervention, brief personal counseling, and short-term psychotherapy.

Office of Student Conflict Resolution (OSCR)
Division of Student Life
Location: 100 Student Activities Building (SAB)
Phone: (734) 936–6308

Web site:

OSCR serves as a campus resource for conflict management. OSCR offers a spectrum of conflict resolution pathways that are educationally focused, student-driven, community owned, and restorative in nature, which are adaptable to meet the needs of individuals experiencing conflict.

University of Michigan Police Department (UMPD)
Main Office Location: 1239 Kipke Drive
Emergency: 911
Dispatch: (734) 763–1131
Text: 377911


UMPD can respond at any time when anyone is threatened.

Office of the Ombuds 
Location: 6015 Fleming Administration Building
Phone: (734) 763–3545

Web site: 

The Ombuds office is a place where student questions, complaints, and concerns about the functioning of the University can be discussed confidentially in a safe environment.

Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT)
1071 Palmer Commons
Phone: (734) 764–0505

Web site:

CRLT offers resources for managing challenging class­room conversations (e.g., guidelines for planning and facilitating discussions on controversial topics) as well as incivility in the classroom. 

U-M Depression Center 
Location: Rachel Upjohn Building
4250 Plymouth Road, SPC 5763
Phone: (734) 764-0231

Web site:
The mission of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center is to detect depression and bipolar disorders earlier, treat more effectively, prevent recurrences and progression, counteract stigma, and improve public policy.


Additional Resources: