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Addressing Behavioral Problems

Behavioral Issues Abroad

Preventing Behavioral Issues

Behavior Agreement Sample

3 Strikes, You’re Out!

After Dismissing a Student


Behavioral Issues Abroad

Most students are well behaved throughout the program. However, there have been instances in which behavioral issues have disrupted program activities. As a faculty director, you will have both an academic and a disciplinary role with students. You are responsible for supervising students and monitoring behavior during official program activities. While we recommend discussing guidelines for safe and culturally appropriate behavior during free time, you are not responsible for student’s behavior outside of the program activities.

It is important to recognize that learning abroad is an extension of our on campus community. As such, behavioral issues are not isolated to the program. They have repercussions on campus as well. It is also important to understand that many students choose to participate in multiple programs, and that failing to report a student with behavioral issues could create problems for other faculty directors. To appropriately address behavioral issues onsite, a comprehensive and coordinated approach is necessary to protect the student, the group, and the University.

With the assistance of University Counsel and the Judicial Affairs Office, we have developed a “3 Strikes, You’re Out!” approach to addressing behavioral issues onsite. These guidelines are not intended to create red tape. Rather, they are intended to provide you with a support structure when dealing with these issues in the field. We recognize that conditions onsite and severity of the disciplinary infraction may require a modification of the process outlined in this section. A team effort between onsite partners, faculty directors, and the Learning Abroad Office will determine what the appropriate modifications are and how to best use these guidelines in a particular situation.

Preventing Behavioral Issues

Most behavioral issues can be prevented. The following tips will enable you to address behavioral issues before they become disruptive.

  • Get to know your group before departure. Having a sense of students’ personalities and the group dynamic before departure will give you a head start on recognizing red flags.
  • Communicate your expectations in advance. Talk about your expectations in pre-departure and onsite orientations.
  • Include behavioral expectations in your syllabus. Including behavioral expectations in your syllabus sends a very serious message to students.
  • Reaffirm positive behaviors. If your students are doing well, let them know. They will appreciate the feedback and it will likely encourage them to continue on a positive path.
  • Consider creating an Expectation Agreement in orientation. A recommended team building activity is the creation of an expectation agreement. Although these agreements are not binding contracts, they will go a long way toward setting and communicating expectations. Should behavioral problems arise, an expectation agreement establishes that these policies were communicated to students and agreed to during orientation.
  • Review the health information submitted by your students. Some behavioral issues onsite are related to medical conditions. Being aware of student medical conditions prepares you for early warning signs.
  • Address behavior during free time that impacts official program activities. If a student’s choices during free time impact the group or the student’s participation in program activities, reach out to them and talk about the situation.
  • Be proactive and open about your concerns. If there’s a problem, address it. Don’t wait. Students typically respond well to honesty. If you “call a student out” for bad behavior in an appropriate way, they typically modify their behavior voluntarily. Openly and appropriately discussing your concerns early will likely prevent the situation from deteriorating.
  • Develop a preventative program itinerary. Too much free time sets you up for behavioral problems onsite. Create an itinerary that gives students some time to explore, but generally keeps them busy throughout the program.
  • Create a list of free or inexpensive suggestions for free time. Provide students with good suggestions for their free. A list of free activities or sites that encourage a constructive use of personal time may reduce problems.

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Sample Group Expectation Agreement

Program Name:

Program Dates:

Learning abroad challenges students physically, emotionally, and intellectually.  Each student is a representative of the University of Utah, the group, their academic department and the United States.  For this reason, all activities and energies should be focused on maintaining and developing positive relationships with peers, faculty, program assistants, and the many people I meet throughout the program.

I understand that my actions have far reaching consequences. This experience will require hard work, dedication, discipline, growth, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with trying and succeeding at new things.

Therefore, to ensure that this a positive experience for everyone involved, I agree to the following guidelines, stipulations, and values:

  1. I am expected to act responsibly the entire time. I will be an obvious outsider, and my every action will be seen. Therefore, I am willing to be a good example to my peers and the communities with whom I interact. As a part of that example, I agree to make responsible choices regarding the use of alcohol, drugs, apparel or foul language.
  1. I understand that the faculty director and program assistants are responsible for making decisions on behalf of the group. I will respect the authority of these individuals and will follow their directions so as to create a safe and productive atmosphere for all.
  1. I believe that this is an academic experience. I recognize that treating this experience as a "vacation" would be inconsistent with this idea.
  1. I understand that we will be living in close quarters, and that certain rules exist for using our housing facility. I will respect the housing regulations of my host. I will remember that my actions affect others living in my housing facility. To ensure the safety and well-being of all, I will refrain from activities that are disruptive or destructive.
  1. I understand that being part of a true community requires time together.  I am willing to participate fully in this experience. This includes attendance at classes, field trips, lectures, and any special events.
  1. I understand that punctuality is important in any group activity. I agree to be on time and come prepared for all events. I also understand that our itinerary is tentative, and that necessary adjustments will be made on-site. I will respect those changes and adjust my behavior and schedule accordingly.
  1. I appreciate the challenges of living and working across cultures. I understand that some behaviors must be modified to avoid offending the communities that we visit. I also agree to refrain from making cultural judgments based on my own values.
  1. I accept that part of this experience is learning a new language. I will refrain from speaking English exclusively in front of non-English speakers as these behaviors are inconsiderate of our host culture. I commit to speaking in the host language for the duration of the program.

I understand that I need to adequately prepare for this experience, and I am committed to collaborating with my peers and faculty director to do so. I also recognize that I will need to independently prepare myself for certain aspects of the program. This includes reviewing the Learning Abroad Handbook, attending orientation sessions, and meeting deadlines.

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In addition to these expectations above, I agree to the following expectations developed by my fellow students, faculty director, and program assistants.

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  

The guidelines listed above, and any others that may be discussed throughout the orientation, must be agreed to in order to participate in this program. 

Should a member of our group fail to meet these expectations, we will take the following actions:

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  

I have read the Group Expectation Agreement for the ________________________________ program. I agree to these terms and understand that I will be expected to adhere to these expectations for the duration of the program. I understand that, in addition to this agreement, additional terms may be added based on the circumstances onsite. I understand that I am also expected to adhere to the University of Utah Student Code and all regulations and rules set forth in the Learning Abroad Handbook.

Signatures of Group Members, Faculty, and Program Assistants:





































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3 Strikes, You’re Out!

The Learning Abroad Office has developed a “3 Strikes, You’re Out!” approach to addressing student behavioral issues. This approach serves several purposes:

  1. It integrates learning abroad with on campus judicial policies, creating an atmosphere in which learning abroad programs are an extension of the on campus experience.
  2. It protects student rights by ensuring that we effectively communicate with them.
  3. It protects the University by ensuring that we handle these situations professionally, legally, and appropriately.

The following procedures serve as a guideline for handling student disciplinary infractions during a learning abroad program. Each situation is unique, and adjustments may need to be made to accommodate the circumstances. A collaborative effort between faculty directors, onsite contacts, and the Learning Abroad Office will determine what adjustments are appropriate for a particular situation.

Faculty Directors should work in coordination with the Learning Abroad staff. If it becomes necessary to implement these steps, contact the Learning Abroad Office. Feel free to use the 24/7 emergency number to reach one of our Coordinators. Since learning abroad programs are an extension of on-campus programming, disciplinary actions abroad could follow a student back to campus. Our office will need to be in the loop to ensure that proper procedures are followed.

Under normal circumstances, the following steps should be followed when responding to a disciplinary issue on a learning abroad program.

Strike 1- Verbal Warning

Addressing potential or actual disciplinary problems early is critical. If Faculty Directors take this step early and expeditiously, most disciplinary issues will not progress to Step #2. Examples of behavioral issues that might warrant a verbal warning include, but are not limited to:

  • Excessive tardiness to class or program activities
  • Personality conflicts between program participants
  • Indifferent or rude behavior toward guests/guest speakers
  • Behavior that is culturally insensitive to the host country
  • Activities during personal time are negatively impacting the program or other students
  • Actions that may inadvertently put the student, group, or community at risk

If a student commits an egregious disciplinary violation, it may be appropriate to skip the verbal warning and move directly to a written warning. Contact the Learning Abroad Office if you think that this may be appropriate.

If you need to issue a verbal warning to a student, we recommend that you pull the student aside. Issuing the warning in front of the group could create unnecessary animosity. If possible, issue the warning on “neutral ground.” A quiet classroom or meeting area would be preferable.

Below are talking points that you might consider using as guidelines for your conversation. If you have doubts about what to say or how to conduct the conversation, contact the Learning Abroad Office. We can assist you in clarifying your message beforehand. If necessary, a representative from our Staff can join the conversation by Skype or speaker phone.

We also recommend that you take notes during the conversation. Let a student know that you are keeping a record of what is said by asking him/her to slow down or repeat something. This sends a powerful message to the student. It lets the student know that you are paying attention and often makes the student think more carefully about the situation. This will also help you in conveying information about the discussion to the Learning Abroad Office afterward.

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Talking Points

Notes

Your behavior is inappropriate.

Be specific.  Explain which behaviors were unacceptable.

This is why the behavior is inappropriate.

Put the behavior in context for the student.  How does it impact the student, his/her peers, you, and the community?

The fact that this behavior is inappropriate was explained to you (if applicable). 

Reference written materials or discussions in which the student was told such behavior was inappropriate.  Examples might include the student code, the University field trip policy, your syllabus, the study abroad handbook, orientation instructions, expectation agreements, or host institution policies. 

Identify consequences and explain the process.

Let the student know what the three-step process is.  Remind the student that learning abroad is an extension of the University and that disciplinary infractions will follow him/her home. 

Outline expectations for future behavior.

Be specific about what your future expectations are.  For instance, if a student arrives late to class every morning you might say, “From this point forward, you will arrive to every class and program activity on time or early.”

Consider adding additional responsibilities or expectations.

Consider giving the student an extra responsibility.  For instance, you might require the student to take attendance and have it ready for you at the beginning of class. 

Notify the student that the Learning Abroad Office is aware of the verbal warning.

This will re-emphasize that these behaviors could follow the student home.

Ask the student if he/she understands or needs further clarification.

This is an important step.  It requires the student to confirm that the expectations and consequences are understood.

After you have spoken to the student, send an e-mail to the Learning Abroad Office so that we have a record that the student was issued a verbal warning.  Records are stored in the student’s Horizons file. Verbal warnings may or may not be sent to the University Judicial Office depending on the circumstances.

If a student commits a second violation that warrants a verbal warning, and the second violation is different from the first situation, contact the Learning Abroad Office.  Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to move on to the second step. Alternatively, a second verbal warning that includes additional talking points might be sufficient.

Strike 2- Written Warning

If a student commits the same disciplinary violation after being issued the verbal warning, a written warning may be appropriate. A written warning may also be appropriate if a student’s behavior requires you to issue multiple verbal warnings for different infractions. If you feel that this is the case, contact the Learning Abroad Office to discuss your options. Examples of behavioral issues that might warrant a written warning include, but are not limited to:

  • A continuation of the behaviors for which they received a verbal warning
  • The need to issue multiple verbal warnings for different offenses
  • Behaviors that disrupt planned program activities
  • Blatant refusal to follow instructions
  • Instigating poor behavior in peers

If a student commits an egregious disciplinary violation, it may be appropriate to skip the written warning and move directly to a dismissal. Contact the Learning Abroad Office if you think that this may be appropriate.
Before issuing a written warning, contact the Learning Abroad Office. We have template letters that can be used in these circumstances. Below is a recommended process for issuing the letter.

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Procedures & Talking Points

Notes

Contact the Learning Abroad Office to generate the warning letter.

We have template letters that can be used in these circumstances.  These letters have been developed in conjunction with University Judicial Affairs officials and University Counsel.  These templates adhere to regular University standards for such documentation.

Meet with the student.

Be sure to pull the student aside for a formal meeting on “neutral ground.”  A quiet classroom or meeting area would be preferable.  Take the printed letter with you as well as a writing utensil.

Consider using the following talking points in your discussion:

  • On __(date)__, you were issued a verbal warning (if applicable)
  • Despite the warning, another violation has occurred.
  • According to University policy, we are now issuing a formal, written letter of warning.
  • Please read the letter and ask any questions that you might have.

Each letter will be customized for the situation and the student. The letter will outline the infractions, cite the verbal warning, and identify if the letter is being forwarded to Judicial Affairs. It will also explain the consequences for another infraction. Be sure to address any questions that the student might have.

The student and the faculty should sign the letter.

If the student refuses to sign the letter, that’s okay. We will proceed with the outlined course of action.

E-mail or fax a copy of the letter back to the Learning Abroad Office.

We will add this documentation to the student’s file in Horizons and forward the letter to the relevant University authorities.

Once the Learning Abroad Office receives the letter, we will proceed as outlined in advance. Be sure to keep us apprised of any further issues with the student.

Strike 3- Dismissal

Dismissal from a program only occurs in rare cases, but when a student is non-responsive to prior warnings or commits a severe infraction it may be an appropriate course of action. Examples of situations in which a dismissal may be justified include, but are not limited to:

  • Illegal drug infractions
  • Breaking host country law
  • Violence against peers or community members
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Destruction of property
  • When a host institution dismisses the student from the program
  • Actions that put the student, group, future viability of the program, or community at risk
  • Conduct that violates the University of Utah Student Code
  • Behavior that is disruptive and detrimental to the group learning process
  • Repeated infractions of the rules and regulations of the housing facility
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Harassment
  • Possession of a weapon
  • Theft
  • Repeated behavior for which the student has been warned in writing

Dismissal proceedings need to be handled very carefully. As such, these should be coordinated with the Learning Abroad Office. At this point, the Learning Abroad Office and the Faculty Director should be in regular contact to ensure that all details are handled appropriately. Students who are dismissed from a learning abroad program are not entitled to a judicial hearing before returning to campus.

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Procedures & Talking Points

Notes

Contact the Learning Abroad Office to coordinate dismissal proceedings and generate the dismissal letter.

We have template letters that can be used in these circumstances. These letters have been developed in conjunction with University Student Affairs officials and adhere to regular University standards for such documentation.

Look up flights and alternative lodging options.

As part of this process, the student will be removed from housing facilities immediately and book the next flight home. It may be helpful to have some of the options in mind when you speak to the student. Hopefully, the flight will be at a time in which different housing arrangements won’t be necessary, but the student may have to reserve alternative housing.

Meet with the student.

Be sure to pull the student aside for a formal meeting on "neutral ground." A quiet classroom or meeting area would be preferable. Take the printed letter with you as well as a writing utensil. You also want to meet in a place where you will be able access the internet.

Consider using the following talking points in your discussion:

  • On __(date)__, you were issued a verbal warning. On __(date)__, you were issued a written warning.
  • Despite these warnings, another violation has occurred.
  • According to University policy, we are now issuing a formal, written letter of warning.
  • Please read the letter and ask any questions that you might have.

Each letter will be customized for the situation and the student. The letter will outline the infractions, site the verbal warning, and identify if the letter is being forwarded to Judicial Affairs. It will also explain the consequences for another infraction. Be sure to address any questions that the student might have.

The student and the faculty should sign the letter.

If the student refuses to sign the letter, that’s okay. We will proceed with the outlined course of action.

Take the student to the nearest computer and have them book the next flight home and new accommodations (if necessary).

Dismissal charges are at the student’s expense. The flight should be booked on their credit or debit card. If the student does not have enough money, we may be able to book the flight on their behalf and charge it to their student account.  Additionally, we can’t necessarily make the student book a flight home, but the student should be required to leave the host country.

Escort the student back to their housing to pack.

The student needs to vacate the group housing immediately. This is to protect the group from further exposure to the individual and his/her activities. If necessary, help the student book a hotel room near the airport. If the student does not have enough money, we may be able to book the hotel on their behalf and charge it to their student account.

Escort the student to the alternative housing or the airport.

The faculty director should escort the student to the security check and wait for them to pass through. At that point, we have fulfilled our obligations. Once the student has left, contact the Learning Abroad Office to update us on the status.

E-mail or fax a copy of the letter back to the Learning Abroad Office with a status report.

We will add this documentation to the student’s file in Horizons and forward the letter to the relevant University authorities.

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After Dismissing a Student

When a student is dismissed from a program, it affects the group. In some cases, the group may be relieved. If the dismissed student caused problems for the group or made others feel uncomfortable, the group dynamic may actually improve. On the other hand, the group may experience post-traumatic stress as a result of the situation. The group may seem subdued and some students may struggle with the outcome of the situation. In cases where the group was significantly impacted by a dismissed student, faculty directors may need to do some "damage control." In either case, we recommend taking some time to talk with the group about the situation using the following guidelines.

Talking Points

Notes

Acknowledge that a member of the group has left.

Let the students know that one of their peers has left the program. Avoid the term "dismissed." REMEMBER: The dismissed student has a legal right to privacy. The group does not need details on the situation. A simple confirmation that the individual is no longer on the program will suffice.

Thank the students for their patience and cooperation while you resolved the situation.

Situations like this almost always disrupt the program. Students may be frustrated about the time they lost. Recognizing them for their patience and thanking them for their cooperation will go a long way toward helping the group move forward.

Reassure the group of their own status on the program (if appropriate).

Students may feel insecure at this point. Reassure the remaining students that they are in good standing with the program. Highlight some of the positive behaviors that they have exhibited and boost their confidence.

Remind the group of the behavioral expectations.

Reference written materials or discussions in which the student was told such behavior was inappropriate (if possible). Examples might include the student code, the University field trip policy, your syllabus, the study abroad handbook, orientation instructions, expectation agreements, or host institution policies.

Let them know that they can talk with you privately if they have questions or concerns.

Opening the discussion up to a group debate may put you in a difficult situation as a faculty director. Students will naturally have questions about the situation that violate the privacy rights of the dismissed student. Recommending that students meet with you privately to discuss further concerns is typically a better approach for avoiding this situation.

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Last Updated: 9/21/16