When students go off to college, there is so much that is new to experience. From scheduling and managing their own time to meeting new people and joining school organizations—college students have a wide range of demands on their energy and attention. One area that's especially important to devote attention to is academics. Sometimes, however, students end up facing allegations of academic misconduct. These allegations may seem innocuous, but it's critical that you not take them lightly. In this guide, we'll explore the process for and definition of academic misconduct at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). Research misconduct is handled differently, and we won't delve into that here.
How MTSU Addresses Academic Misconduct
When a faculty member suspects alleged academic dishonesty, they fill out the Academic Integrity Incident Report Form. Instructors have seven business days from when they suspect the alleged incident occurred to file this.
The Director will review the case within five days of receiving the incident report. If the Director and faculty member decide to move forward with the allegation, then the student will be sent a notice to schedule a meeting. At the meeting, the student either accepts or declines responsibility.
Two hearing options
In cases where the result of the hearing could be suspension or expulsion, every student has a right to a UAPA hearing (pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act). The alternative is to opt for a Committee hearing. If a student chooses to pursue the institutional hearing instead of the UAPA hearing, they must waive the right in writing.
When a student elects the institutional hearing, the Committee attempts to schedule one ideally within fifteen business days. Once the hearing date is selected, the Director will notify the student in writing.
This communication will contain several important components, including,
- date, time, and place of hearing
- right to receive a list of witnesses that the University plans to present at the hearing
- the right to request a copy of the investigative file associated with the allegations
- the right to request copies of all documents or other tangible evidence that might impact the case (that is in the University's possession)
At the hearing
Students are allowed to have an advisor with them at the hearing however, the advisor is not allowed to actively participate. They may only speak with the student. The standard of proof at the hearing will be a preponderance of evidence, which means that it must be more likely than not that the alleged behavior occurred.
Hearings are not open to the public, and any information that the Committees decides is “immaterial, irrelevant, or unduly repetitious” may be excluded from the proceedings.
After both sides have called and spoken with witnesses, responded to testimonies, and provided testimony, the Committee will deliberate. While they consider the case, anyone present who is not on the committee may be asked to leave. The decision will be made by majority vote, and in instances of a tie, the allegation will be dismissed.
The Director will send written notice of the decision to both the faculty member and the student. This notice must include the factual basis for the decision, as well as any disciplinary sanctions (if relevant).
Sanctions That MTSU Could Impose if You Are Found Responsible
- Educational programs
- Written reprimand
- Revocation of the degree
It's important to note that there is plenty of room for MTSU to assign other sanctions. The final statement in the policy, as far as sanctions go, is: “Additional or alternate sanctions may be created and designed as deemed appropriate to the offense and the student's individual need for education, growth, and reform.” As you can see, sanctions can be tailored to specific individuals.
If a student has any prior academic misconduct offenses, then the Director will notify the Committee of this after they decide on whether or not the student was responsible for the alleged behavior. They may take the past offenses into consideration as they determine what sanctions are most appropriate.
What is the Appeal Process at Middle Tennessee State University?
There are three different types of appeals that you may need to know about if you are found responsible for the alleged academic misconduct.
- Appeal of decision: if you wish to appeal the Committee's decision, you have five business days from receipt of the notice to submit your written appeal to the Provost. An appeal is only considered if either there was an error in procedural due process or there is new evidence that emerged. Both of those qualifiers must have had a substantial effect on the hearing.
- Appeal suspension: if you are suspended, you will have to apply for readmission. According to Policy 312, “Academic appeals for undergraduate students will be reviewed by an Academic Appeals Committee, and consideration will be given for readmission if the student presents adequate evidence of ability, maturity, and motivation.”
- Appeal final grade process: if you wish to contest the grade you received for the assignment or the course, you will have to file an appeal.
Middle Tennessee State University Academic Dishonesty Attorney-Advisor Defense
When you or your loved one faces allegations of academic misconduct, you shouldn't try to navigate any of the processes alone. Prior to speaking with anyone from the school, contact an attorney-advisor who has vast experience of similar school-related allegations. By consulting them, you'll be able to better navigate what steps you should take to protect yourself. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have worked with countless students across the United States. They can negotiate on your behalf with MTSU, as well. Contact them at 888.535.3686 or send a message online in order to receive assistance.