Academic Misconduct Accusations at Utah State University Regional Campuses and Distance Education

We hear all the time about how cheating is on the rise on college campuses. That may be true. Students have always been pretty clever about coming up with ways to game the system, and new technologies open up new possibilities every day.

What we don't hear about so often is how downright paranoid faculty and administrators have become lately. Instructors are so worried that someone might get away with something in their classrooms that they can often be trigger-happy when it comes to accusing students, and they frequently assign sanctions that are far out of proportion to the nature of the offense. Even if you are guilty of an offense, the fact is that rules regarding misconduct can be complicated, and students can make honest mistakes. Honest mistakes shouldn't jeopardize anyone's academic future.

What do you do if it happens to you?

If you've found yourself accused of academic dishonesty, you want to take the time to understand your situation. That means finding out as much as you can about what you've been accused of doing, and it means investigating your school's judicial process so you'll be fully prepared to defend yourself. Once you know what you're up against, you'll also want to find an attorney-advisor with experience handling student disciplinary cases. As they say, knowledge is power, but it's no substitute for qualified legal representation.

Defining the Academic Misconduct

It's never a bad idea to know the rules at your university. If nothing else, that can help you avoid getting into trouble in the first place. If you should be accused of breaking a rule, it's also key to proving your innocence.

The Academic Integrity Policy at Utah State University Regional Campuses and Distance Education is brief and to the point. It lists just three kinds of violations: cheating, falsification, and plagiarism. Fewer rules might sound like a good thing. The fact is, each one covers a wide range of possible misconduct.

  • Cheating: In simple terms, “cheating” refers to the use of any unauthorized resource in completing your coursework. The key here is the phrase “unauthorized resource.” It can mean virtually anything. Obviously, you're not supposed to use your book during a closed-book exam. Smuggling a crib sheet in on the brim of your baseball cap is generally frowned on too. You don't have to go to such extremes to be guilty of cheating, though. Asking a friend from another section of the course what to expect on the exam qualifies as well.
  • Falsification: This involves inventing material as part of your coursework. Examples might include making up results for a lab experiment you didn't actually perform or fabricating a source for a research paper. Be careful, though: technically, falsification can also apply to something far more innocuous, like signing a classmate's name to the daily attendance log.
  • Plagiarism: The attempt to submit another person's words or ideas as your own without giving them credit. Here again, this definition is deceptively simple. Plagiarism can be large—submitting a paper you bought from an online paper mill—or small—forgetting to include a parenthetical citation after a quotation. It applies to text, but it also applies to images, video, music, and even computer code.

The bottom line is that when the rules are broad enough to cover almost anything, you have to be particularly careful if you want to avoid breaking any. Even then, you'll probably make a mistake sooner or later. That's when having an attorney-advisor by your side can make all the difference.

Processes and Penalties

Knowing the rules is half the battle. It's far easier to prove your innocence when you know what you've been accused of doing. It's only half the battle, though. You also need to know how your school handles misconduct accusations. That is, how exactly do you go about proving your innocence?

Utah State University Regional Campuses and Distance Education policies give instructors almost total authority in their classrooms: “An instructor has full autonomy to evaluate a student's academic performance in a course.” For example, faculty who suspect a student of cheating can assign sanctions as they see fit, up to and including failure in the course. Other possible sanctions include

  • Verbal or written warning
  • Assignment revision or makeup assignment
  • Educational assignment on the nature of academic integrity
  • Lower grade on the assignment up to a zero.

Your punishments may not be limited to the context of the course. Faculty are required to submit an Academic Integrity Violation Form (AIVF) if they suspect misconduct. First offenses are usually punished with academic probation. Further offenses can be punished with suspension, expulsion, or the revocation of your degree.

Fortunately, the university does provide you with some important due process protections.

  • Your instructor is required to provide you with written notice of the allegation and the proposed sanction.
  • You can request to meet with your instructor to explain your side of the situation.
  • You have the right to appeal your instructor's decisions to the Dean of the college that houses the department. As part of the process, the Dean will meet with you and your instructor to hear arguments.
  • You further have the right to appeal the Dean's decision to the school's Honor Board. The Honor Board then holds a full hearing into the matter, at which you can make arguments, present evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. Importantly, you also have the right to an advisor during this process, and this advisor may be an attorney.

Joseph D. Lento: Academic Misconduct Attorney

You might be tempted to ignore an accusation of academic misconduct, particularly if you're facing a relatively light sanction. That's never a good idea. Why? Because the truth is that there aren't any light sentences. Even a warning can cause you problems if it should wind up in your academic file. You could lose scholarships, you could have trouble getting into graduate school, you might even struggle to find that all-important first job out of college.

You should always fight to protect your good name. Joseph D. Lento can help.

Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who assists students nationwide 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.

Contact Us Today!

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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