Schools take academic misconduct seriously—maybe too seriously. There's nothing wrong with promoting honor and integrity, but these days faculty seem more than a little paranoid about cheating, and they can go completely overboard when coming up with punishments.
You could be entirely innocent—it happens. Or maybe you simply made an honest mistake. That doesn't necessarily mean you deserve to be punished. In fact, even if you did violate policy, that doesn't mean you should suffer a harsh sanction.
What do you do if you find yourself accused? First, you find out everything you can about how your school handles such cases. That means knowing the rules and how they're enforced. You should also check out what the procedures are for defending yourself. Then, you make sure you have an experienced attorney-advisor at your side, someone who knows how universities operate and who has experience with student disciplinary cases.
You should always fight to preserve your academic reputation, but that doesn't mean it will be easy. Your best chance of success is having help on your side.
How Does the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire Define Misconduct?
Defending yourself starts with knowing the rules. Obviously, that can help you avoid mistakes in the first place. It's also vital, though, to proving your innocence or explaining why you made an honest mistake. Only when you know exactly what you've been charged with doing can you begin building a strong defense.
The University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire's policy on academic honesty is set by the state's Board of Regents. In fact, the honor code is actually written into state law (Chapter 14). As you might expect, the legislature's language isn't always easy to parse. Here's a list of the various violations, though, as well as an interpretation of what they actually mean.
- “Seeking to claim credit for the work or efforts of another without authorization or citation.” Simply put, this means “plagiarism.” And keep in mind that plagiarism doesn't just apply to the written word. You can be accused of plagiarizing images, videos, music, and even computer code.
- “Using unauthorized or fabricated data in an academic exercise.” There are actually two separate offenses included here. The first is common, everyday “cheating.” “Unauthorized […] data” means resources like crib notes, stolen copies of an exam, or your book during a closed-book exam. “Fabricated data,” on the other hand, has to do with inventing information as part of your coursework, like faking a lab report or making up a source for a paper.
- “Forging or falsifying academic documents or records.” This could apply to a range of activities. Hacking into the school's mainframe and altering your grades would certainly qualify. Some professors accuse students for far lesser offenses, though, like forging a doctor's note or signing a classmate's name to the daily attendance log.
- “Intentionally impeding or damaging the work of others.” Maybe you're trying to make sure the curve on an exam doesn't rise too high, or maybe you have a grudge against a classmate. Either way, interfering with another student's work can also get you accused of misconduct.
- “Engaging in conduct aimed at making a false representation of a student's academic performance.” This one is particularly difficult to translate. Basically, it means you shouldn't do anything that gives you an unfair advantage in completing your coursework. It's a kind of catchall for any misconduct not already covered in one of the other categories on the list.
- “Assisting other students in these acts.” Finally, helping someone else commit misconduct constitutes its own form of misconduct, even if you don't directly benefit from that misconduct.
Procedures and Sanctions at UWS, Whitewater
Knowing the rules is a good start, but it's only a start. You also need to know how the disciplinary process works at UWEC. For example, who decides if you've committed academic misconduct? What are the penalties? How do you go about defending yourself?
Again, the procedures as described by the state legislature aren't exactly clear and easy to follow. Here are the basics, though.
Your instructor has the primary responsibility for identifying and punishing policy violations. However, they don't have carte blanche to do what they want. Rather, they must follow a series of specific steps.
- In the case of minor violations, instructors must meet with you, explain their findings, and give you an opportunity to respond. Ultimately, though, they can issue you a sanction. Minor sanctions include
- Verbal or written warnings
- Resubmissions or makeup assignments
- In the case of more serious infractions, instructors must hold a formal conference with you and give you a chance to defend yourself. In addition, they must provide you with written notification of their findings. Finally, they may only recommend sanctions. Only an “investigating officer” can actually impose them. Major sanctions include
- A lowered grade on the assignment in question, up to a zero
- Educational assignments on the nature of academic integrity
- A lowered grade in the course, up to an F
- Removal from the course
- Written reprimand in the student's academic file
- Academic probation
Note: The investigating officer can impose these harsher sanctions for minor violations if you have a record of past misconduct.
Of course, you have the right to challenge any decision by your instructor, whether it involves a major or minor sanction. You can challenge either the determination itself, the sanction, or both.
When you do so, the investigating officer must instigate a formal hearing before the school's academic misconduct hearing committee. You have the right to present evidence at this hearing, call witnesses to testify on your behalf, and cross-examine any witnesses against you. Importantly, you also have the right to bring an advisor of your choosing. Your best option when it comes to an advisor is always going to be an attorney who works in the area of student discipline.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Students don't always contest the charges against them, even when they are entirely innocent. Why not? Maybe the prospect of questioning a faculty member's decision feels too scary. Maybe the procedures seem too complicated. Maybe they just don't want to spend their time and energy on it. Whatever the reason, they just accept their punishment and move on, especially if that punishment seems relatively minor.
Here's the problem with that thinking. UWEC's policy notwithstanding, there just aren't any “minor” punishments. If a warning gets into your academic file, it can cause you lots of long-term problems. A record of misconduct could cost you scholarships, keep you from applying for internships and fellowships, and even interfere with your ability to get a good first job.
You can't afford to take any accusation lightly. You must fight for your reputation and your academic future.
Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney. He knows how to construct air-tight arguments, organize evidence, and cross-examine witnesses. He's just as comfortable making those arguments before school administrators, though, as he is making them before judges. In fact, he spends more time on college campuses than in courtrooms. Joseph D. Lento knows the law and particularly how it applies to higher education. He also knows how to communicate effectively with faculty and administrators. Whether you've been charged with something big, like coordinating a large-scale cheating conspiracy, or small, like forgetting to cite a source in a paper, Joseph D. Lento can help you get the very best possible resolution to your case.
If you've been accused of academic misconduct, contact Joseph D. Lento today to find out what he can do for you. Call 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.