Academic Integrity: Getting Representation When You Need It at Your School

According to several recent high-profile news reports, cheating at American colleges and universities is at an all-time high. Texas A&M, for instance, saw a 20 percent increase in cases during the second half of 2020, and NPR has reported on widespread cheating scandals recently at schools from the University of Georgia to Cal State, Los Angeles.

Much of this rise has been attributed to an increase in online classes, where students have more temptation to look in their textbooks during an exam or Google a response to an essay question. Here's the thing, though: As the numbers rise, instructors take a more aggressive approach to identifying cheaters, and this can sometimes lead to false accusations and overly harsh punishments.

Take the time to understand your school's disciplinary policy now, before you're accused. You'll know how to avoid academic misconduct, but you'll also know how to defend yourself effectively.

What is Academic Misconduct?

Every school is different, of course, and each one maintains its own student code of conduct with its own specific rules. That said, you'll find that most schools prohibit the same basic behaviors as all the others.

  • Unauthorized use of materials: Different schools may describe this in different ways, but those descriptions all come down to the same basic thing—unless your professor has given you express permission to use your textbook, surf the web, or consult a classmate to find an answer, doing so is probably against the rules.
  • Plagiarism: Plagiarism means using someone's work without giving them credit. We usually think about it in terms of essays, but you can commit plagiarism in creating an art project, composing a string quartet, even writing computer code. It's also important to note that almost every school prohibits self-plagiarism or submitting the same work in two different classes.
  • Fraud: “Cheating” isn't always just about quizzes and exams. Extreme instances of fraud might involve buying a paper off the internet or paying someone to take an exam for you. Fraud also includes more minor offenses, though, behaviors that might seem totally innocuous. Signing someone else's name on an attendance sheet is fraud, for instance. So is using a phony doctor's excuse to get out of work.

You may notice that all three of these categories have some commonalities between them. Perhaps the easiest way to define academic misconduct is as anything that gives the impression you've completed coursework that you haven't. In addition, most schools treat helping someone else to cheat as just as serious an offense as doing the cheating for yourself.

The Justice Process

Schools also differ in how they investigate and prosecute instances of academic misconduct.

Complaints usually originate with instructors since they're the ones best positioned to catch cheating. Sometimes those instructors have complete discretion to deal with academic misconduct as they see fit. They're solely responsible for deciding if you're guilty and can assign whatever penalty they choose. That might be anything from a lower grade on a paper to a failing grade in the course.

More often, though, schools offer some means of appealing an instructor's decision. Sometimes appeals happen at the departmental level, with department heads making the final decisions. In other cases, you may have the opportunity to defend yourself at a formal hearing before a panel of faculty and students.

Most schools these days require their faculty to report every instance of cheating to an administrative office. That office keeps records of violations and will often assign you penalties beyond those your instructor may have given you. It isn't unusual for schools to put convicted students on probation, to suspend them, or even to expel them.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento Understands Academic Misconduct

You may not think being accused of cheating is a big deal. Maybe you think you'll just accept a failing grade on a paper and move on. The reality is, even one accusation can have serious repercussions on your academic record. Schools keep records of academic misconduct, and those records can come back to haunt you. A conviction for academic misconduct can keep you from getting into the degree program you want. It can hurt your chances of getting scholarships.

In fact, if your conviction shows up on your transcript, it could interfere with your ability to get that all-important first job out of college. After all, most employers aren't eager to hire someone with a history of cheating.

Take any accusation made against you seriously, and don't try to handle it all on your own. Most schools allow you to appoint an advisor to help you in such situations. Some even allow you to pick an attorney for that role. Even if they don't, however, a lawyer skilled in handling academic misconduct cases can offer you important advice on how to defend yourself.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a proven record defending students from charges of academic misconduct. He's advised hundreds of students just like you across the United States. Joseph D. Lento isn't just a defense attorney. He specializes in college and university cases. He knows how school administrations operate. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can protect your rights, and he can make sure you get the very best outcome for your case.

If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct, use the links below to investigate how your specific school treats this violation. Then, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.

Find Out About Your School

How does your school treat academic misconduct? Click on the link below and find out.

Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to get the advice you need to help secure your academic future and prevent suspension, expulsion, or another form of academic discipline.