History of Academic Misconduct

Academic misconduct charges are brought against many students every semester at colleges and universities across the United States, and the potential consequences for an adverse finding against a student accused of academic misconduct can be severe. 

Also known as an academic integrity violation or academic dishonesty, academic misconduct has arguably existed as long as academia itself.  Recognition of academic misconduct as it is understood today dates back to at least the seventeenth century, when disputes about authorship and invention rights were brought before the newly created royal scientific societies in England and France.

Over time, concepts such as intellectual property, copyright, patent, and trademark became accepted in the Western world and later protected by its legal systems.  The history of research and discovery in the academic world is full of dramatic controversies over who the rightful originator of a idea or discovery was for example, with accompanying accusations of stolen concepts, falsified data, plagiarized texts, sabotage of research work, and other questionable deeds; all of which would be regarded as various forms of academic misconduct by today's standards. 

Early Academic Misconduct Charges

In 1830, Charles Babbage, an English scholar known as the "father of computing," described academic misconduct of his time, some of which continues today across college campuses and research institutions nationwide.  Babbage described various forms of academic misconduct as "hoaxing," "forging," "trimming," and "cooking."  According to Babbage:

"Forging differs from hoaxing, in inasmuch as in the latter, the deceit is intended to last for a time, and then be discovered, to the ridicule of those who have credited it; whereas the forger is one who, wishing to acquire a reputation for science, records observations which he has never made."

"Of Cooking, this is an art of various forms, the object of which is to give ordinary observations the appearance and character of those of the highest degree of accuracy. One of its numerous processes is to make multitudes of observations, and out of these to select only those which agree, or very nearly agree. If a hundred observations are made, the cook must be very unhappy if he cannot pick out fifteen or twenty which will do for serving up."

"Trimming consists of clipping off little bits here and there from those observations which differ most in excess from the mean, and in sticking them onto those which are too small; a species of 'equitable adjustment,' as a radical would term it, which cannot be admitted in science."

To Babbage, academic integrity was paramount.  Babbage's concerns with academic misconduct among students were also shared by others, and publications on various forms of academic misconduct appeared throughout the twentieth century, showing that the phenomenon is far from a recent concern on college campuses.  Although the terminology has changed since Babbage's time, colleges and universities today understandably maintain the same philosophy that academic integrity violations, academic dishonesty, and academic misconduct have no place in higher education.  

An Explosion of Academic Misconduct and the Regulatory Response

"Academic misconduct" as it is understood today is generally divided into three categories: 1) academic misconduct itself; 2) research misconduct; and 3) scientific misconduct.  For college and university students charged with academic integrity violations, most will involve the more broadly-defined category of "academic misconduct" due to the nature of their studies.  Some students, however, and also due to the nature of their academic work, may be charged with the more specific category of "research misconduct" or "scientific misconduct."

Since the mid-1970s, and particularly during the 1980s, a number of well-publicized cases among the three categories have drawn the attention of the American public and of politicians to the phenomenon of academic misconduct at colleges, universities, and research institutions.  These notable academic misconduct cases, together with the increasing prevalence of academic misconduct cases in general, led to new considerations and procedures for investigating and handling such matters; in other words, the "regulatory response" by colleges, universities, and even legislatures.  These academic misconduct cases have also caused the literature on academic misconduct to explode.  As early as 1992, a report by the National Academy of Sciences on a specific form of academic misconduct known as "research misconduct" for example, listed over 1,100 bibliographical entries, with the vast majority from the United States.

No college, university, or research institution in the nation can deny that academic misconduct is potentially present in all academic disciplines, and that it involves both students as well as academic personnel at times.  A principal reason why schools vigorously investigate, and as necessary, prosecute academic misconduct charges against students is that schools are tasked with, among other things, educating students to live life with integrity.  When a student intentionally commits academic misconduct in any form, the student fails to live up to this principle.  In addition, from a school's perspective, academic misconduct, at a minimum, can not only produce unreliable scientific data, but can also lead to major conflicts between individual students and groups, and can undermine the credibility of academic institutions.

Some examples of academic misconduct charges include:

  • Plagiarism (which can include many forms, including self-plagiarism)
  • Fabrication and falsification
  • Unauthorized collaboration
  • Receiving unauthorized assistance
  • Misuse of professional connections
  • Deceitful educational software
  • Cheating
  • Giving or taking academic materials

Ultimately, students accused of academic misconduct, and their parents, must understand that an adverse finding and consequent sanctions can have a major negative impact on the academic and professional careers of accused students.

National Academic Misconduct Attorney

Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped thousands of students across the United States address and resolve academic misconduct cases.  If you or your student is accused of academic misconduct, contact student defense attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686.

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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 the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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