Colleges and universities take academic integrity seriously. You can understand why. Leaving aside preachy tenets about honor and the importance of learning course material yourself, if you want to “make it in the real world,” schools live and die based on their reputation. In fact, you should care too, maybe even more than your school does. Not many employers are looking to hire graduates from a school known for cheating.
That doesn't mean universities don't sometimes get things wrong. With the recent rise in all forms of academic misconduct, schools are especially trigger-happy right now when it comes to making accusations, and they can be particularly harsh when assigning sanctions.
What do you do if you should find yourself accused? Maybe you're entirely innocent. Maybe you're being held to too high a standard. Maybe you've been given a punishment that's just all out of proportion to the nature of the offense. Whatever the situation, don't panic. It's not easy to take on your school, but you can do it. First, make sure you know absolutely everything there is to know about how your college handles these cases. Then, contact an attorney to help you prepare your defense, someone with experience representing students in disciplinary proceedings.
The Rules at Ferris State University
Your very first job in preparing your defense is to know exactly what you've been charged with. You can't hope to prove your innocence or protest your punishment if you don't know what you've been accused of doing. As a bonus, knowing these rules can generally help you avoid problems in the first place.
You can find a copy of FSU's rules listed as part of its Academic Misconduct Resolution Process. There are essentially seven types of violations.
- Cheating: In simplest terms, cheating means using unauthorized materials to complete your coursework. Keep in mind, though, just how broad the phrase “unauthorized materials” really is. Cheating can mean looking at another student's paper during a quiz. It can mean using text messaging to get answers from your roommate during an exam. It can even mean asking someone else to take a test for you.
- Plagiarism: Like “cheating,” the term “plagiarism” actually applies to a whole host of sins. It literally means attempting to pass another person's work off as your own. Obviously, buying a paper online would qualify. So would copying whole sections of your freshman comp essay from a journal article. Plagiarism isn't always so obvious, though. You could be accused for simply forgetting to include quotation marks or incorrectly citing a source. In addition, you should know that plagiarism doesn't just apply to text. You can plagiarize images, music, and even computer code.
- Fabrication: Generally, this refers to inventing information or data as part of your coursework. It might apply to making up lab results or using a fake source in a paper.
- Interference: This includes anything that might impede another student's ability to get an education. Interference can be direct, as in the destruction of another student's work. It can be indirect, such as stealing a book from the library.
- Violation of professional standards and ethics: Typically, this applies to students who are directly engaged in pre-professional studies. However, it could also be used to justify an allegation of misconduct for copying copyrighted materials without permission.
- Facilitating dishonesty: FSU wants you to know that helping someone else to break the rules counts as breaking the rules yourself.
- Violation of course rules: This last category is perhaps the most important. Generally speaking, you're responsible for following any rule listed on your course syllabus, even if it doesn't otherwise fit into one of the categories already listed.
Ferris State Sanctions and Procedures
In addition to knowing the rules at FSU, you need to know how those rules are enforced. Who decides whether or not you're guilty of a violation, and what can you do to defend yourself?
For the most part, instructors at FSU have primary responsibility for identifying and punishing instances of academic misconduct. If they suspect you've committed a violation, they should provide you with written notice of the allegation and make an appointment to discuss the situation with you. You have the right to offer your side of the story. In addition, you may bring an advisor of your choice with you to the meeting.
Ultimately, the instructor has the authority to determine whether or not you are responsible for an offense and to assign you a sanction. Typical sanctions include
- Verbal or written warnings
- Re-submissions or makeup assignments
- Assignments relating specifically to academic integrity
- Lowered grades on the assignments in question, up to a zero
- Lowered grades in the course, up to an F
If the instructor should find you responsible, they are also required to notify the Associate Provost of Academic Operations. This official keeps a record of all infractions and has the power to punish repeat offenders with additional disciplinary sanctions, including probation, suspension, and expulsion.
You do have the right to appeal your instructor's decisions regarding the allegation itself, the sanction, or both. These must be filed within seven days of being notified of your instructor's decision, and there are limited grounds for appeal:
- Failure by the instructor to afford you due process
- The discovery of new evidence
- The severity of the sanction (in cases where you've been given an F in the class)
Generally, appeals are heard either by the original instructor or by a different instructor.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Ferris State University allows you to choose an advisor to help you prepare for your academic misconduct case. Even better, you can choose the advisor, and it can be an attorney. That's a valuable right. It's up to you, though, to use it wisely. That means choosing the right advisor. Keep in mind: few attorneys have experience with student disciplinary cases. They don't know how campus hearings work; they don't know how to talk with faculty and administrators; they don't know what rights you should be entitled to as a student. As a result, they can actually make the situation worse.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney. That means he knows how to construct air-tight arguments, organize evidence, and cross-examine witnesses. Day-to-day, though, he applies those skills to help get justice for students like you. 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 is ready to 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.