What Does Tech Think: How do You Handle an Aggressive Student?

Primary tabs

The Situation: 

A student who is upset over failing a course is meeting with you to discuss her options. All of a sudden, she slams her fist down on your desk and starts to yell. What would you do?

The Response: 

“We must recognize that students are often under a great deal of pressure and sometimes just need to release pent up energy,” said Gail Potts, director of Graduate Studies. “Is throwing a temper tantrum the correct thing to do? No, but it is the reality of human nature.”

Potts would allow the student to vent, and would try to resume the conversation. She added that trying to argue with the student would only add to the problem.  

Reta Pikowsky, registrar, or her staff members would ask the student to calm down so that they could resume the discussion.   

“Regardless of whether we could get through that initial conversation, her actions indicate a bigger problem,” Pikowsky said. 

Pikowsky would encourage her to meet with the dean of students and members of the Counseling Center for assistance. If she didn’t calm down, the student would be asked to leave and the dean of students and/or the GT Police would be contacted.  

Either way, Pikowsky would contact the student’s school and let her academic advisor know about the interaction and would also follow up with the Office of the Dean of Students, in case she chose not to do so.

Mack Bowers, associate director of the Counseling Center, would advise the faculty or staff member not to raise his or her voice or reciprocate.  

“Calmly and firmly inform the student that you are aware she is upset, and you would like to help, but the two of you need to work together to resolve the situation in a way that is satisfactory,” he added. “Move into reasoning with her on ways this could happen; don’t allow the emotion to be the focus.”

Trying to connect with the part of the student that is upset or afraid would likely make it easier for the employee to contain his or her own defensive response, Bowers said.

“Helping the student understand what is appropriate is a conversation that still needs to be had — but perhaps after the heightened emotions of the moment are past,” he said.



  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Amelia Pavlik
  • Created:10/17/2011
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016