The Baruch College Faculty Handbook
Last updated on 6/18/10
On December 6, 2002, 16 members of the Baruch faculty, staff, and administration met to discuss issues of classroom management; specifically, student behavior that disrupts effective teaching. Discussion was spirited, but a broad consensus emerged around several issues, including the need for the items listed here to be discussed and implemented at the departmental level, with support from the college's administration through orientation and other efforts.
The list below reflects the consensus and is advanced here for consideration by individual members of the faculty and by departments. These items should not be construed as requirements; they are suggestions from which faculty and departments are invited to pick and choose as seems appropriate to their discipline. Many of these suggestions may seem obvious; further suggestions are welcome. For additional resources, please visit the Teaching Blog - Classroom Management.
- Consensus arose around the importance of communication: absent
clear guides to classroom behavior, some students have no idea
what behaviors are inappropriate. In light of contemporary norms
-- talking in cinemas, cell phones at concerts, feet on subway
seats, litter thrown on the ground -- less than respectful behavior
might not be surprising, even in a college. Faculty should make
clear to students (preferably both orally and in writing) that
the classroom environment is a special one, with special normative
behaviors. Syllabi distributed and discussed at the first class
session are an important tool for communicating these precepts.
- Most students appreciate having limits clearly articulated and
enforced. Those limits can include: phones and beepers turned
off; no leaving class for calls; a request that students visit
bathrooms before or after class, not during; no talking while
the instructor is talking; no sleeping; questions to be directed
to the instructor; no reading of materials unrelated to the class;
no use of laptop computers other than for taking notes, etc.
- Student responsibilities regarding less banal aspects of behavior
(including the need to prepare for class) similarly should be
spelled out, preferably through a written syllabus, as well as
For a thought-provoking view of student responsibilities that encourages faculty to articulate these in the context of their own responsibilities, see Bill Taylor's "Letter to My Students" (which also may be accessed from the Academic Integrity page of the Faculty Handbook website). Again, anyone who wishes to incorporate this approach is invited to pick and choose.
- Faculty who do allow students to talk or to leave the room during
a lecture help to create/reinforce bad habits that students then
bring to other classrooms. The absence of stated limits encourages
this behavior, as does faculty disregard of cheating during exams,
or plagiarism on written assignments. Multiple-choice exams may
be unavoidable in classes with many students, but administering
the same MC exam to students sitting next to each other invites
cheating: when possible, students should be seated in alternate
seats and several versions of exams should be administered. (Different
versions can be on different colored paper; the differences can
be limited to the order of the questions. Here, as elsewhere,
departments should develop their own best practices.) Faculty
may insist that students use restrooms before the exam starts
and should not themselves leave the room during exams.
- Some disruptive behaviors by students yield to tricks of the
trade. They can be asked to change seats. In larger classes, students
can be assigned seats alphabetically (or in other ways that discourage
friends from sitting together); the seat assignments can be recorded
and can serve as aids to taking attendance and to calling students
by name. Students can be asked to supply photocopies of their
ID photos, helping faculty learn names. Taking attendance is important
not merely because of state regulations that students attend a
certain number of hours, but because it alerts the college to
potential problems of individual students and helps lessen the
sense of anonymity. Warning students who have missed classes that
they risk being dropped for over-cutting is a good idea; despite
information on a syllabus and elsewhere, they may be unaware of
- If a student's behavior is disruptive, the faculty member should
ask him/her to stop. As suggested above, the key is communication:
disruptions show disrespect for the instructor, fellow students,
and the educational environment. If the disruptions persist, asking
a student to change seats is reasonable, as is asking him/her
to leave the classroom. If necessary, Security can be called to
insure that a student leaves as requested (x3000 -- there are
phones in all classrooms of the VC). The names of students who
are disruptive can be sent to the Associate Dean of Students: Ron Aaron
(NVC 2-256; 646-312-4577).
- Students who arrive late may be unintentionally disruptive.
A separate seating area near the door can minimize this disruption.
Late arrivals are always disruptive to some degree: faculty may
discourage these by counting a certain number as the equivalent
of an absence. Faculty who are not ready to begin lessons on time
set a bad example.
- General issues of respect for the institution include respecting
the classroom environment and the staff who clean the rooms. Faculty
may bar eating and drinking from the classroom, but if they allow
food consumption they should ask students to dispose of refuse
- Departments are urged to follow procedures regarding peer observations
(all untenured faculty, including adjuncts, need to be observed
during each of their first ten semesters teaching; tenured faculty
may be observed once each semester) and to standardize their approach
to observation and post-observation reports. (The relevant portion
of our collective bargaining agreement is available here.)
In addition, faculty should be encouraged to sit in on colleagues'
lectures. A helpful practice would be for one or more members
of a department to agree to be observed in this way. Standard
departmental approaches to creating and maintaining a file of
current syllabi also are encouraged.