You may not think academic misconduct is such a big deal. Your school does, though. No school wants to be known for dishonesty: it tends to hurt both placement and recruitment.
Academic misconduct should matter to you, too, though. You can bet that if you should violate policy, you'll find yourself facing a disciplinary sanction that could hurt your progress in a course or even disrupt your academic career. In extreme cases, schools expel students for cheating, but even if you're just given a warning, it could have severe repercussions. A warning in your academic file can interfere with your scholarships. It can keep you from getting into internships, fellowships, and graduate school programs. It can even be an issue when you go looking for your first job.
You need to know the rules at your school. You also need to know what to do if you should wind up accused of breaking one. What procedures are in place for defending yourself? What sanctions might you face if you lose your case? Most important of all, who do you contact to help you deal with the situation?
Defining Academic Misconduct at the University of Maine
The University of Maine seems almost to take academic misconduct personally. The Academic Affairs Policy Manual, for example, notes that “integrity violations strike at the heart of the [school's] educational mission.” It goes on to refer to misconduct as no less than “lying, cheating, [and] stealing.”
What do lying, cheating, and stealing mean in concrete terms?
- Plagiarism: First up, UME bars all forms of plagiarism. It defines this as claiming another person's work or ideas as your own without giving them credit. Of course, the very first thing the policy prohibits is buying a paper from a vendor. You don't have to do something so obvious, though, to find yourself accused. Simply failing to include a proper citation when you use a quote can get you into trouble. In addition, plagiarism isn't just about text. Images can be plagiarized, as can music, video, and even computer code.
- Cheating: Next, the UME policy forbids cheating. This is defined as the use of any unauthorized resource in completing your coursework. Note that an “unauthorized resource” can be almost anything, from accessing the web during an exam to asking another person to take the exam for you. You can even be accused for something as small as talking to a friend from another section about what to expect on an exam.
- Fabrication: This involves making up information as part of your coursework. For instance, you shouldn't write up a lab report for a lab you didn't actually complete. Likewise, you shouldn't invent sources for a paper. In fact, just signing another student's name on the daily attendance sheet could get you into trouble.
- Facilitation: UME treats facilitation as its own form of misconduct. That is, if you help your roommate write their paper, you are just as guilty of violating the integrity policy as they are.
Finally, just for good measure, UME offers a hodgepodge list of additional violations and notes that this list is not exhaustive.
- Destroying another student's work
- Lying about another student's work
- Selling or distributing an “unadministered” test
- Offering a bribe for an unadministered test
- Entering a building with the purpose of obtaining an unadministered test
- Working on an exam after time has elapsed
- Entering a building with the purpose of altering a grade
- Altering a grade
Processes and Penalties
UME's Academic Affairs Policy Manual also includes a full description of the judicial procedures in cases of academic misconduct. This information is vital to successfully defending yourself from a charge.
Instructors have primary responsibility for identifying and dealing with policy violations. The school requires faculty to apprise students of their suspicions and that they give students an opportunity to explain their side of the situation.
Ultimately, however, instructors have the right to decide whether a student is guilty and to decide on an appropriate sanction. Sanctions typically include things like
- Verbal warning
- Written warning
- Assignment on the nature of academic dishonesty
- Re-write of the assignment or a makeup assignment
- Reduced grade on the assignment, up to a zero
- Failing grade in the course
The school maintains records of all accusations and punishes additional violations with harsher punishments, including probation, suspension, and expulsion.
Students do have the right to contest their instructor's decisions. They can question the allegation itself, the severity of the sanction, or both. Appeals must be filed with the Dean of the college housing the course within ten business days of receiving an Academic Integrity Violation Form. Students may submit up to two written pages explaining the basis of their appeal.
Once the Dean has received the appeal, they must schedule a hearing at which both sides may make their case. In the end, it is up to the Dean to decide whether or not to alter the official findings.
Finally, should a student contest the Dean's decision, they have a further right to request a paper review by the school's Academic Appeals Committee.
Joseph D. Lento: Academic Misconduct Attorney
Students sometimes just accept accusations of misconduct and whatever penalty their instructor happens to assign them. You can understand why. It's daunting taking on a professor, let alone making arguments in front of a Dean. Appeals aren't easy. They involve collecting evidence, writing out detailed arguments and explanations, and preparing complex presentations.
Here's why you have to do it anyway: your future is on the line. The severity of the sanction doesn't matter. What matters is that the violation itself could appear in your permanent record. You have to fight. You don't have to fight alone, though. UME gives you the right to bring an attorney to your hearing. More importantly, an attorney can help you from the moment you're accused, guiding you through the process of talking with your instructor, drafting documents on your behalf, and practicing how to answer questions.
Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in academic misconduct cases. Whether you're simply meeting with a professor to discuss their accusation or going before the Dean to prove your innocence, Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento has handled hundreds of cases just like yours. He's a skilled negotiator and a tenacious fighter. Don't let your school trample your rights or impose penalties far out of proportion to your offense. If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct, contact the Lento Law Firm today.
Call 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.