Dealing With Workplace Violence on University Campuses

A job at a college or university isn't like other jobs. You have a unique set of responsibilities. You're subject to very particular legal and ethical requirements. The atmosphere on a college campus is different from any other environment you'll ever come across.

As different as that atmosphere can be, though, the same bad things can happen on a college campus that happens anywhere else. People get angry with one another; they act out; sometimes, they get violent. In fact, in some ways, universities are more prone to such incidents. There's a lot at stake in academia, and the closed nature of most schools can sometimes induce claustrophobia.

Whether you've been accused of workplace violence, held accountable for others' violence on campus, or actually committed some act of violence, you deserve competent, experienced legal representation. Universities maintain high standards, often too high, and maybe you don't deserve to lose your job just because you've made a mistake. Joseph D. Lento is an attorney who specializes in college and university disciplinary cases. If you're facing censure or dismissal from your school, no one has a better chance of saving your job than he does.

What Can Happen on Campus?

You've probably heard the term “ivory tower” in reference to academia. Colleges and universities are supposed to be removed from the common everyday cares of the rest of the world. They're supposed to operate above the fray. Right. Try spending your days teaching nineteen-year-olds how to write a competent essay, convincing freshmen to turn the music in their dorm rooms down, or serving food to students who don't know how to adult yet, and then see how well you do at remaining “above the fray.”

Just because you work at an institution of higher education doesn't mean you won't occasionally lose your cool. We all get frustrated, we all get fed up, and sometimes we act inappropriately in response to our feelings.

College campuses, though, are less tolerant of violence than most places. Every school has strict policies against doing physical harm to others, and most also forbid threatening to do harm as well. NYU's faculty handbook provides a good example of what schools expect from their employees.

“In order to ensure the safety and security of the workplace, the university strictly prohibits violence or threatening behavior. Anyone who engages in any violence in the workplace or in threats of violence or threatening behavior is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment and, in the case of an employee who also is a student at the University, additional student disciplinary action up to and including expulsion. The university may, as it deems appropriate, seek legal sanctions against violators.”

Committing workplace violence yourself may not be your only worry, though. Often schools have high expectations for how their employees handle instances of violence. Help break up a fight in the quad, and you could find yourself in trouble for excessive use of force with a student. On the other hand, fail to intervene, and you might still find yourself accused—this time of shirking your responsibilities to maintain a safe campus.

Of course, you can also be falsely accused of violence or of failing to perform your duties as a university employee. Honest mistakes happen, but it's also true that some corners of academia can be extremely petty and vindictive. People have been known to make false allegations deliberately if they think it will gain them some sort of advantage.

Facing Sanctions

What's the worst that can happen to you should you commit an act of workplace violence or mishandle a violent incident? You could lose your job. No one wants that. University discipline isn't always so cut and dried, though.

For one thing, one of the unfortunate facts of academia is that not everyone on campus is treated equally. Your sanction could depend on your specific role.

  • Faculty misconduct is subject to a wide range of corrective actions, including written warnings, decreases in salary, suspension, and demotion, in addition to outright dismissal. The degree of the punishment can also depend on issues such as tenure.
  • Support staff, on the other hand, usually face more severe penalties for any sort of misconduct, let alone an act of violence. At UCLA, for instance, “Professional Employees” can be fired for most offenses after a single warning. A violent offense can result in immediate dismissal.

Finally, it's worth keeping in mind that losing a university job can have far-reaching consequences, especially if you've made education your career. That's true for any type of misconduct, but if you're fired for workplace violence, you will likely find it extremely difficult to find another job in academia. Universities simply can't afford to take any risks with campus safety.

Defending Yourself

How you go about defending yourself from charges of violence will also likely depend on your particular position.

  • Faculty and administrators are usually subject to a set of procedures that may include an investigation and a chance to defend themselves at a formal hearing. Of course, a school can take interim action to remove you from campus should it view you as a threat to safety, but in most cases, you'll still have an opportunity to give your side of the story.
  • University staff, on the other hand, can usually be fired without recourse to any sort of judicial process.

Joseph D. Lento: An Attorney Who Understands University Policy

Whether you're faculty, administration, or staff, fighting termination can be an uphill battle. You don't want to take it on alone. An attorney who's worked in employment law is always your best hope of holding on to your job when you're facing dismissal. University jobs aren't like other jobs, though, and saving it may require a very particular set of skills.

Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed attorney. He's not just any attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento built his career working on college and university conduct issues. He understands how schools operate; he speaks the lingo of education. He's helped hundreds of university employees hold on to their jobs when they faced unfair dismissal, and he can help you to do the same.

Joseph D. Lento values what you do. You've made a commitment to work in education. That's a special calling that often comes with special demands. When those demands are unreasonable, he's dedicated to making sure you're treated fairly and that you get the very best possible resolution to your case.

If you're a university employee facing unfair termination, contact Joseph D. Lento today at 888.535.3686 or go online for help.