Policy Development for Disruptive Student Behaviors

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The nation watched in shocked disbelief as tragedy unfolded on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) on April 16, 2007. We were riveted by the news stories detailing the carnage, and for those of us who teach and learn in higher education, many relived the horror of the 3 nursing professors of the University of Arizona who were gunned down 5 years earlier. The shooter at Virginia Tech led a troubled life. Some students complained that the killer had stalked them, whereas others skipped class because of his strange behavior. As educators, we yearned for understanding as we grieved for the victims and their loved ones-and struggled with how to prevent these shootings from happening again.

Within hours after the violence at Virginia Tech, social scientists, religious leaders, and psychiatric professionals questioned the role of academic leaders in preventing these atrocities. By relative measure, universities remain safe places; however, acts of incivility and violence make us pause to reexamine our policies, procedures, and general campus readiness.