For Faculty and Staff

Partnership between the Office of the Dean of Students and Academic Affairs is key for our students’ success.

The Office of the Dean of Students is a resource for faculty and staff in addressing student concerns.  Our staff are available for consultation and advice on how to address unexpected and/or sensitive matters.

This page is dedicated to offering Cal Poly faculty and staff with timely and relevant resources to support our students in both the virtual and physical environments.

Virtual Learning Support

In response to the continued spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Cal Poly has transitioned entirely to a virtual learning environment. Students suddenly find themselves having to adjust in ways they never imagined. For many students, the classrooms and residence halls were the safe environment that provided shelter, community, and stability.

This may be a very stressful time for students. Some students may experience fear and worry, changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, or worsening of health and mental health conditions. Faculty are frequently and consistently communicating with students and may be the first to notice how the current crisis is impacting a student.

Many resources are emerging to support faculty with instructional technology needed to transition to the virtual environment, but there are fewer resources focusing on how to create the psychological and emotional conditions necessary for students to continue to learn most effectively.


Identify the Early Signs of Stress

  • Concerning comments written on discussion boards, assignments, etc.
  • Failure to turn in assignments
  • Lack of participation
  • Frequently contacting instructor about assignments, often without actually doing the work
  • Repeatedly canceling appointments or office hours at the last minute
  • Angry and/or irate tone in communications to instructor or other students
  • Interrupting instructor and peers who are trying to help them
  • Inappropriate comments or statements in online communications
  • Requests for help without specifying what they need or when they are available to receive assistance
  • Multiple requests for extensions



  • Don’t ignore the signs. If comfortable, let your students know that you are there for them and that if they need help to reach out to you.
  • Temper your expectations. Remember that for both faculty and students remote learning can be a challenge. Be flexible with deadlines, offer alternatives if someone can’t complete a particular assignment, and don’t assign high-stakes tests on a new platform.
  • Students have left behind more than just their classes and academics. Consider creating a community discussion board for them to share what is happening in their lives, especially given the stress, fear and strains in these uncertain times.
  • Create an opportunity for students to process the moment.
  • Reach out to all students early, and often.
  • Be authentic in your interactions – emails, videos, etc. Given the emotional and psychological toll of the changes brought on by the pandemic, integrating empathy and compassion into courses is now a critical part of the work faculty are encouraged to do.
  • Provide resources - these can be included in the syllabus, Canvas tab, or separate handout.


If you would like to report a Student of Concern, please click the button below:


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If you have any additional questions, please contact the


Working with a Challenging Student

Throughout your time as a professor, it is possible that situations will arise in which a student becomes difficult or disrupts the learning environment. In some cases, students may become hostile and may even compromise the safety of the classroom and fellow classmates. In these instances, there are several de-escalation techniques you may be able to implement:

  • Appear and speak calmly. Do not smile as this could be received as mockery.
  • Leave extra space between you and the student.
  • Be respectful but firm without getting loud or becoming hostile or aggressive towards them.
  • Empathize with their feelings rather than their behaviors.
  • Answer informational questions they have but not rhetorical ones.
  • Empower them by giving them choices to pick from.


If you feel that a challenging situation is not settling down, escalating further, or believe that you, the student, or their classmates are in danger, call the Cal Poly Police Department at 805-756-2281 or 911 immediately. The safety of you and the students always comes first.


Dean On Call

The Office of the Dean of Students has established the Dean On Call Program to provide faculty and staff with assistance on urgent concerns, or non-life-threatening emergencies and crisis situations impacting the student community Monday-Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Weekends, holidays, or after hours

Call the Cal Poly Police Department at 805-756-2281 or 911.

Access the Dean On Call through your portal.


Additional Resources

Cal Poly Cares

Red Folder: Assisting Students in Distress

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