Helping troubled or disruptive students

Whether you are a first year faculty member or a seasoned staff member, we all share a bond as Badgers because we are all a part of the Wisconsin legacy. Students, staff and faculty define our community of learners. Today, I ask you to become a partner with the Division of Student Life in our continuing efforts to strengthen students’ Wisconsin Experience by helping to keep all members of the UW-Madison community safe. In your capacity as faculty or academic staff, you may directly encounter troubled or disruptive students in your classroom, office or work area.

You may be the first to learn of an emotional or mental health issue, including suicidal references, the effects of a sexual assault or other crimes. You may even encounter disruptive behavior.

In all of these cases, you can play a positive role in helping that student to access resources or receive assistance and be successful at UW-Madison. Please consider the following to deal with such situations.

  • Should a student exhibit dangerous, disruptive or suicidal behavior and physical safety is of immediate concern, call the UW Police Department. The 911 emergency number on campus connects directly to campus police (it is not necessary to dial 9-911 from campus phones, although both numbers will work).
  • Some disruptive behavior, such as yelling or inappropriate language, can be dealt with informally by speaking directly with a student and setting clear expectations for conduct.
  • If a student seems to be having mental health issues, is homesick, sad or troubled, please refer them to UHS Counseling and Consultation Services at (608) 265-5600.

In any case in which you have a question or are seeking consultation, I would urge you to use my staff as a resource by calling (608) 263-5700 and asking for the dean-on-call. You can also send an email to

Anytime you are worried about a student or witness an observable change of behavior, it is your responsibility to act with concern. Acting with concern may include: calling 911 in an urgent situation, discussing your unease with a colleague or your department chair/supervisor, contacting my staff, or talking to the student you are concerned about. An example of this may include a student who is consistent in attendance who is suddenly absent a lot. You may want to approach the student and ask if everything is okay. Your care and concern is important in keeping our community safe.

My staff can also give guidance on respecting student privacy under FERPA, handling an escalating case, dealing with academic integrity or any other assistance you require.

Additional resources about dealing with these situations are available at or .

Thank you,

Lori M. Berquam, Dean of Students, Division of Student Life

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