Academic integrity is crucial in college and university settings. Your reputation for truthfulness in higher education will follow you throughout your educational career and professional life. Your fellow students and future colleagues want to know they can trust you and your work.
Being accused of academic misconduct can put all of that in jeopardy. With an academic misconduct determination on your record, you may have difficulty gaining admission to another college or university, become ineligible for scholarships, awards, or other academic honors, or even be turned down for employment.
If you are facing an academic misconduct allegation, it's critical to seek guidance and advice from an experienced academic misconduct lawyer. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have nationwide experience in defending college students accused of academic misconduct. We are committed to defending you vigorously, and we will make every effort to protect your reputation and future.
What is Academic Misconduct?
Academic misconduct is a broad category. While the definitions vary, academic misconduct usually refers to behaviors that result in an unfair academic advantage for the student or any other members of the academic community, or other acts that undermine the learning process.
When students first enter a new college or university, it's important to review the school's policy on academic misconduct so they understand the behaviors that could land them in trouble. Such information is usually found on the school's website or in the school handbook.
In general, however, the following are more common forms of academic misconduct:
Plagiarism is one of the most common forms of academic misconduct, if not the most common. Many schools define it as taking, copying, or incorporating someone else's work or ideas without giving proper credit to the original author or source. Some schools also consider it plagiarism if students turn in a group assignment, but fail to identify all the members of the group. Most universities and colleges take this offense so seriously that they will even sanction accidental plagiarism. Students must thus learn how to properly cite work early in their educational careers. Some schools consider the student's intent regarding alleged plagiarism and others do not so.
Offering or giving any favor or something of value for the purpose of improperly influencing a grade or other evaluation of a student in an academic program is prohibited.
Cheating generally occurs when a student has failed to comply with the instructions of a university faculty member, administrator, or another officer concerning proper conduct when taking an exam or completing an assignment. For colleges and universities which use the specific charge of "Cheating", such a charge maybe considered a "catch-all" charge although different schools can have different definitions of the actual charge. Depending on the school, cheating may include: continuing to write after the exam time has ended; submitting work performed by others; copying another student's work; allowing another person to copy your work; or using materials that your teacher has forbidden to assist your work.
Falsification, forgery, or misrepresentation of information to any University official in order to gain an unfair academic advantage in coursework or lab work, on any application, petition, or documents submitted to this University is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, falsifying information on a resume, fabrication of credentials or academic records, misrepresenting one's own research, providing false or misleading information in order to be excused from classes or assignments and/or intentionally under performing on a placement exam. Furthermore, another party providing false information on another student's behalf is prohibited.
Disrupting a Classroom
Colleges and universities usually reserve the right to sanction students for engaging in conduct that disturbs, distracts, or otherwise interferes with classroom, laboratory, campus activities, or the overall learning process. Such behavior may include: excessive talking, interrupting the class, or verbally abusing fellow students or the professor.
Failing to Safeguard Work
Failure to take precautions to safeguard one's own work is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to: leaving work on public computers; sharing work with other students for a completed course without authorization from the course instructor; and sharing course notes without authorization.
Facilitation of Academic Dishonesty
Knowingly or negligently engaging in behavior that assists another student in a violation of academic integrity is prohibited.
Falsification of Data or Records
Virtually all universities and colleges will sanction students who misrepresent themselves to the university, professors, or within the school. Such misrepresentation may include misstating your grade point average, prior universities or colleges attended, awards or honors received, jobs you've held, or your identity. The school may reserve the right to sanction you if you misrepresent yourself or academic credentials to someone outside of the school, such as a potential employer.
Obtaining Advanced Knowledge
Unauthorized advanced access to exams or other assignments without an instructor's express permission is prohibited.
Research misconduct is found most often in the hard science. Federal regulations define it as the “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.”
Inappropriately and deliberately harming someone else's academic performance is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to: altering another students experiment data; disrupting the experiments and tests of others; taking actions which prevent others from completing work; or making modifications to parts of a group project without the knowledge of contributors.
Using any material portion of previously submitted work to fulfill the requirements of an assignment for the same course or another, without proper citation and/or the instructor's express permission, is prohibited.
Giving unauthorized assistance to another student or receiving unauthorized aid from another person on tests, quizzes, assignments or examinations, without the instructor's express permission is prohibited.
Collaborating on academic work without the instructor's permission is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, unauthorized collaboration on tests, quizzes, assignments, labs, and projects.
Unauthorized Giving or Taking Academic Materials
Unauthorized circulation or sharing of past or present course material(s) without the instructor's express permission is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to assignments, exams, lab reports, notebooks, and papers. Methods of distribution include but are not limited to: uploading to public websites such as Chegg, Slader, CourseHero or Github; emailing; sharing through Courseworks or Canvas; or taking and/or distributing unauthorized recordings of lectures/course instructions.
Violation of Ethics, Honor Codes, and Professional Standards
Violating established institutional policies related to the ethics, honor codes, or professional standards of a student's respective school is prohibited.
Violation of Test Conditions
Compromising a testing environment or violating specified testing conditions, to intentionally or unintentionally create access to an unfair advantage for oneself or others is prohibited.
What happens if the college claims that you committed academic misconduct?
Every school has a different procedure for handling academic misconduct. Depending on the alleged gravity of the offense, the university may notify students suspected of academic wrongdoing. The school may ask you to schedule a meeting to discuss the issue or it may issue a letter asking you to admit or deny whether you've violated the code.
In serious cases, or if the student has multiple offenses, most schools will commence a formal investigation, by collecting documents and evidence and interviewing witnesses. Once the school has gathered the evidence, it will decide whether to dismiss the allegations or schedule a disciplinary hearing.
What happens at a disciplinary hearing?
The disciplinary panel often consists of three or more faculty members or university staff. The panel will review the documentation relating to the alleged misconduct and ask you questions about the incident. The hearing is a critical opportunity to present your side of the story. You should be well prepared in advance and take the matter seriously. In some cases, the panel may make its decision at the end of the hearing. Some colleges offer opportunities for appeal, though not all.
We must reiterate that, because every college process differs, it is essential for you to review your college's code or handbook to determine the process that applies.
What are the potential sanctions for an academic misconduct violation?
Depending on the infraction, sanctions may include: academic probation; a reduced grade; loss of course credit; loss of scholarships or financial aid; loss of student housing; suspension or expulsion.
The college may note the penalty on your permanent record, which may prevent you from gaining admission to other university or graduate programs. The penalty can even result in a current employer firing you or your being automatically disqualified from some jobs.
Because the charge can bring such long-term consequences, students must enter the disciplinary process with the utmost seriousness and make every effort to achieve the best possible outcome.
How can a lawyer help fight an academic misconduct charge?
Many students believe (or the colleges will try to persuade them) that they do not need a lawyer to fight an academic misconduct charge because the academic disciplinary process isn't a court of law. The school is not investigating students for committing a crime, but to assess if the student violated the school's code of conduct and, if so, to mete out an appropriate punishment.
However, an experienced academic misconduct advisor can help ensure that you are in the best position to defend yourself. For example, a good lawyer will gather evidence supporting your defense, coach you on how to persuasively present your side of the story, or argue for a less severe sanction.
Some schools will not permit a lawyer to attend the school's hearing; nonetheless, an advisor can help you determine if the college has treated you fairly and correctly followed its procedures. Your advisor can also guide you through any appeal process, if available, to attain the best possible outcome.
What should I do if I'm notified of an academic misconduct violation against me?
If your school accuses you of academic misconduct, take these four steps:
Stay calm. Do not panic or fire back a rapid response to the university, even to defend yourself. Do not admit to anything, or try to explain the circumstances to anyone other than a parent or your attorney.
Review the school's code of conduct. Try to understand the allegations against you, in light of your school's code of conduct. If there seems to be a disconnect between the charge and school policy, write down any questions you may have.
Write down the events. Start recollecting and recording all details relating to the alleged incident. Include the date, time, potential witnesses, text messages, photographs, and any other facts or details you believe may be relevant.
Contact an academic misconduct violation lawyer. An attorney experienced in handling academic misconduct violation cases can help assess the seriousness of the allegation, collect vital evidence, prepare a strong defense. The earlier you hire an experienced lawyer, the better chance you have of obtaining a favorable outcome.
For many years, attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have successfully defended more than one thousand students across the nation facing academic misconduct charges or college code violation allegations. We want to help resolve your situation, too. You have worked too hard, and you have too much at stake to attempt to handle this challenge alone. Let us fight for your future. Call us at 888-535-3686, or online.