Pennsylvania State University Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Procedures

Academic misconduct occurs when academic integrity is breached. Thus, in order to understand what actions constitute Pennsylvania State University's academic misconduct, one must understand how academic integrity is defined by the school.

Pennsylvania State's code of conduct provides that academic integrity is “the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner.” Essentially, in any instance when a student has submitted an academic work that is dishonest or unauthentic, he or she may be subject to charges of academic misconduct.

Examples of Academic Misconduct

Misinformation about what constitutes academic misconduct is the ultimate culprit for violations among students. Due to its relatively broad definition, this policy violation encompasses a wide range of actions that extend outside easily identifiable cases like “plagiarism” or “fabrication.” Some students are under the impression that as long as they steer clear from blatantly reprehensible actions - like copying and pasting an essay from the internet, or completely fabricating information - they won't ever face accusations of academic misconduct, but this is a precarious misconception.

Unfortunately, the many inconspicuous opportunities to breach academic integrity regulations exposes even the most careful students to misconduct allegations. Here are a couple examples of circumstances that have lead to a determination of responsibility for academic misconduct:

  • Using unauthorized materials, prepared answers, written notes, or concealed information during an exam
  • Copying or attempting to copy the work of another individual
  • Paraphrasing another person's phraseology, metaphor, or literary device without citing the source
  • Forging the signature of an instructor on a letter of recommendation or any other document
  • Obtaining a copy of an exam or assignment prior to the approval of an instructor
  • Having someone take a test for you
  • Distributing, posting, or selling lecture notes, handouts, records, or any other information provided by an instructor without his or her permission
  • Stealing another person's original academic work to pass if off as your own
  • Submitting the same assignment for more than one course without the prior approval of all instructors involved

Procedures

The procedures for academic misconduct at Pennsylvania State University are relatively straightforward, as the institution aims to promptly remedy these issues. Although academic misconduct is undoubtedly a huge deal in intercollegiate environments, the resolution of these cases does not require the same complex logistics or processes one would encounter in sexual misconduct or school violence cases. Students suspected of misconduct should expect the following:

Immediate notification

First and foremost, you will be notified of these allegations by a faculty member. The PSU Policies and Procedures Manual emphasizes that in doing so, this faculty member must take into account the confidential nature of this information. In other words, this notification should not be shared publicly in the middle of class, nor in an environment where anyone could overhear these allegations.

Academic Integrity Form

During this confidential meeting or through other methods if necessary, a faculty member will present you with the option of signing what's known as an “Academic Integrity Form.” This form essentially signifies that there is sufficient evidence that led this faculty member to believe that you intentionally partook in academic misconduct. It also includes the way in which school policy was violated, and the proposed academic sanction for your suspected actions. There are two signing options: one that will declare an admission of guilt, and another that communicates that you will contest the charge.

Students are given a short deadline (at the discretion of a faculty member) to decide which slot to sign. Failing to sign altogether will be regarded as not contesting the charge or sanction, and the adjudication process will continue. Students will be prohibited from dropping the class during this period of time.

It's important to note that in perceivably extreme circumstances, a faculty member can request that additional university-wide disciplinary sanctions be imposed. However, it's recommended for faculty to pursue academic sanctions within the college in which the student belongs.

Accepting Responsibility

If you are contemplating taking the easier route of accepting responsibility for academic misconduct, there are a few things you should consider before making a decision. Once the school is notified of your decision, your program will be responsible for digging up information about prior violations, particularly ones involving academic integrity. Your academic record as a whole will be violated to determine if the appropriate sanction listed on the Academic Integrity Form is proportionate for your actions. In this predicament, the sanctions imposed will only become more severe. In the event that a school decided to stiffen a punishment, a new form will be sent, and you'll be asked to accept or contest that. Upon acceptance, you will be delivered that sanction.

Not Accepting Responsibility

If you decide to contest these charges, an Academic Integrity Form will be sent to the Academic Integrity Committee Chair or Coordinator at University Park or to an appropriate designee at other campuses or colleges. The campus Academic Integrity Committee will conduct an investigation to determine a finding of responsibility. This investigation will likely consist of an opportunity for you to defend yourself. In preparation, you should collect any evidence that supports your claim of innocence. If you've been accused of plagiarizing an essay, for example, you should bring an outline, notes, sources you used and other documents that convey original thoughts in this process. If you're evidence is sufficient, and you effectively demonstrate that this was merely a misunderstanding or mistake, a committee may find that you are not responsible for your charges. However, in the event that a finding of responsibility reads “responsible,” sanctions may be imposed.

Sanctions

Schools may utilize a wide range academic sanctions or disciplinary sanctions for a finding of responsibility. The severity of a sanction depends on the circumstances of your case. Sanctions ranging from a failing grade to disciplinary suspension or expulsion, in more serious cases or in cases involved repeated violation, may be imposed.

Appeals

An appeal is a procedure that urges an institution to reconsider a decision it has previously made. Students facing academic misconduct sanctions may request an appeal, but it has to be based on reasonable grounds. Students must also request an appeal within 5 business days of a determination. An attorney can help you determine which grounds would be applicable for your case, and maximize your chances of being granted an appeal.

Pennsylvania Student Defense Attorney

For students who may be facing ramifications of a program withdrawal or a disciplinary action, contesting the charge may be in your best interest. Being booted from a program will taint your academic record, and serve as a huge barrier to your goal of graduating. If you're invested in your degree program, maintain a genuine belief that you did nothing wrong, and are willing to make an effort to defend yourself, this is the option for you.

Not to mention that the help of a student defense attorney can increase your chances of a favorable outcome. With over 15 years of experience, Joseph D. Lento has rendered his expertise to students facing dire repercussions in intercollegiate settings, and he's helped them prevail. He can do the same for you. Contact him today for help.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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