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Establishing Expectations for Student Conduct

An important first step for faculty in the process of evaluating students is to establish an atmosphere in which all students have the opportunity to learn without distraction. As representatives of the University, faculty have the authority, and the responsibility, to establish expectations for academic conduct that allows all students to learn equitably and effectively. Although students are entitled to free expression, this freedom must be balanced against the right of all students to a productive learning environment. To establish an atmosphere where students can learn and have that learning assessed equitably, instructors may forbid conduct that distracts other students and/or interferes with their ability to teach, including such things as:

  • use of cell phones, pagers, music or video players
  • loud talking or whispering
  • eating and drinking
  • overly distracting dress or behavior

You cannot limit students' first amendment right to free expression, but the right to a productive learning environment takes priority. So, for example, you could ban a student who comes naked to class or wearing another costume meant to distract you and other students, but you can't ban a student from wearing an earring in their nose or lip or a very short miniskirt simply because you don't like that style or find it disrespectful.

When students violate the rules that have been established to promote learning, you may ask them to stop their disruptive behavior or leave the class. (From the Student Conduct Code, WAC 478-120-020 (5): An instructor has the authority to exclude a student from any class session in which the student is disorderly or disruptive.)

You must make exceptions for students for whom Disability Resources for Students has identified accommodations (for example, a pregnant woman or a diabetic might need to eat in your class), and you may not use such behavior as a criterion to determine a student's grade without granting the student the right to due process.