In Carnegie Mellon's code of conduct lies the expectations students are expected to meet. It provides a rather detailed policy containing the school's stance on this type of misconduct, and what actions can lead to a violation. Under this policy, academic misconduct comes is exhibited in three forms: cheating, plagiarism, and unauthorized assistance. Definitions of each concept along with multiple examples of each are highlighted.
According to Carnegie's policy, cheating occurs when a student commits an action that gives him or her an unfair or disallowed academic advantage. This includes, but is not limited to:
- The submission or use of unfactual data
- The falsification of academic credentials
- The use of an alternative person (known as a stand-in) to take your place during an exam
- Copying from a source, or another person for the completion of coursework
- The theft of or unauthorized access to an exam, answer key or other graded work from previous courses
- The use of false statements or misrepresentation to obtain additional time for an assignment or exam (or any other accommodation)
Plagiarism is defined as the use of work or concepts contributed by other individuals without the proper attribution or citation. The policy proceeds to mention that even materials used from an outside source for oral use must be fully acknowledged in academic work to be graded. Examples of sources that must provide references include:
- Graphic elements
- Mathematical proofs
- Scientific data
- Text - written or spoken - quoted directly or paraphrased
- Concepts or material originating from another person's original work - published or unpublished
Unauthorized assistance is the use of sources, materials or support that have not been allowed by an instructor in the completion of coursework. Unauthorized assistance can come in the form of a tutor, outside sources, or information you've found online. The code of conduct provides several examples of unauthorized assistance:
- Passing off work as your own that has been completed fully or in part by another individual
- Using unauthorized devices
- Collaborating on an assignment beyond the standards authorized by an instructor
- Supplying information or materials, like graded work, answer keys, etc. to another student
- Submitting an assignment that you completed in one course to another course without the approval of both instructors
Although you've been provided with the core definitions, terms, and examples of academic misconduct in your school's handbook, it is still important that you read it for yourself. In these processes, an informed respondent is a successful one. The key to achieving a favorable outcome is having a comprehensive of your charges, your expectations, and your role in this process. Another key is to determine if you wish to fight these charges or accept your sanctions (in the event it is declared a violation occurred). Some students only face a warning, or a “0” for that specific assignments and understandably feel that fighting isn't worth it. Others who are facing serious disciplinary actions like a suspension, program withdrawal, or expulsion may feel more inclined to get involved.
First and foremost, it's important you understand the expectations placed upon complainants (typically faculty members) when interacting with you. Carnegie Mellon requires that a possible violation of academic regulations should be regarded as “confidential” and handled accordingly to this standard. In other words, your charges should only be discussed with you and not outside parties. If a faculty member violates this standard, you should bring this information to a school official.
Incidents of suspected academic misconduct will be handled initially at course level, or department level. The school is adamant about incidents staying at this level.
Initial Review, Decision and Action(s)
Within one week of a complaint, a faculty member is required to meet up with you to discuss a suspected violation. During this meeting, your professor or instructor will likely ask you what happened, and why you did what you did. If you made a genuine mistake that constitutes plagiarism, here is your chance to prove yourself. Lay everything out for this faculty member. If you have any documents or papers in the beginning process of outlining an essay or project, present it to them. Any material you created that demonstrates you completed the thought work it takes to draft an academic work could help in proving your case. Also, prepare to list or bring all of the sources you used in the course of completion of an assignment. You or your professor may be able to pinpoint where you made the mistake.
After this meeting, an instructor will be given a reasonable time period to determine whether or not a violation occurred. If he or she comes to the conclusion that a violation did, in fact, occur, a consultation with the department head will ensue. If it is agreed upon that official charges shall be imposed, the instructor will immediately and in writing, notify you about the decision, the basis for the decision and the penalty imposed.
The bittersweet thing about course level sanctions is that the most severe penalty is a failure of the class. Although still a big deal to most students, it's not as bad as it could be. However, if an instructor perceives the instance to he severe, they may request a second-level review.
Second-level Review and Action(s)
A second-level review resembles a hearing. A five-member panel comprised of people from the Associate Deans' Council, Faculty Senate, and Student Government will hear the stories of both a complainant and respondent(s). Based on what they hear, they shall review of the facts of the case, decide whether or not to make a recommendation of second-level action to the dean of student affairs. If the dean sees fit, he or she will render a sanction.
Fortunately, a guilty determination does not signify the end of the road. Students who feel as if a decision is unfair and unjustified can request to appeal. An appeal is a written request that asks a department to reconsider its decision. However, in order for it to be granted, it must be founded on reasonable grounds. With the help of a student defense attorney, you can provide sufficient grounds and increase the likelihood of being granted one. Students at Carnegie Mellon have a week to appeal before the deadline.
Pennsylvania Student Defense Attorney
Many students wait until they believe they've experienced injustice after school processes to retain a student defense attorney. Although this is a smart move, it makes sense to retain one right at the start. An attorney can help you avoid pitfalls that put your academic goals in jeopardy. Joseph D. Lento has over 15 years of experience helping students who were in your shoes prevail in these processes. He can do the same for you. Contact him today.