College is about making mistakes and hopefully learning from them: signing up for 8 a.m. classes your first semester; racking up fines for that library book you took two years to return; agreeing to let your best friend set you up on a blind date. You're young, you're trying to establish your independence, you're going to do dumb things. The only real question is, will you be able to recover from all the mistakes you make?
Academic misconduct can be a big one. If you're found responsible for plagiarizing your freshman comp research paper, or cheating on your biology final, you could be looking at an F on the assignment, disciplinary probation, or worse. Paying a penalty in the course may be the least of your problems. If this isn't your first offense, the school might suspend or expel you. Even if you avoid this fate, there will likely be a black mark in your permanent file, and that can prevent you from getting internship or scholarships, from transferring, even from getting a good first job.
Take the time to know what qualifies as academic misconduct at Fullerton College. Get familiar with how your school deals with such cases and what penalties they tend to impose. Most importantly, learn how to defend yourself if the dean's office should come calling. Making a mistake is one thing; don't risk your future as well.
Defining Academic Misconduct?
Fullerton College likes to keep things simple. Its policy on academic honesty, for instance, takes up less than a page. “Students are expected to abide by ethical standards,” it begins before mentioning guiding principles such as “integrity” and “honesty.” Then it lists three specific kinds of misconduct:
- Helping someone else plagiarize or cheat
Of course, the danger in such simplicity is that you can wind up thinking Fullerton's policies don't apply to the particular scheme you've come up with. To cover any and all possibilities, the policy also notes that academic misconduct is “not limited to [these] areas.”
In fact, it's worth digging a little more deeply into each one and thinking about what they cover.
- Plagiarism: Most of us recognize that it's dishonest to buy a paper off the internet and turn it in as our own work. Not everyone realizes, though, that plagiarism isn't always so obvious. Using someone else's ideas without giving them credit is also plagiarism. You can't even copy someone else's organizational structure. In addition, plagiarism isn't limited to the written word. Copying someone else's source code into your computer science project is forbidden as well.
- Cheating: In simplest terms, cheating refers to using unauthorized materials to help you complete coursework. Unauthorized materials, though, is a pretty broad phrase. It could include using your textbook while taking an exam. It might mean Googling homework answers. You can also get in trouble, though, simply for asking a friend in an earlier course section what's on the final.
- Helping others: You may think that providing homework answers to a friend makes them the cheater. In fact, you can be accused of academic misconduct as well.
Filing a Complaint
Fullerton's policy for resolving accusations of academic misconduct is equally brief, so much so that accused students may not be entirely clear what options they have to defend themselves from charges, false or otherwise, or to complain about harsh sanctions.
The school gives course instructors three options for dealing with violations. They may:
- Assign an academic penalty, such as a warning, or a reduction in points
- Give the student an F on the particular assignment
- Report the incident to the “appropriate administrators” for further disciplinary action such as suspension, probation, or expulsion
It is far less clear how students can respond when they're accused. Fullerton College does offer what it calls a “Student Complaint Process,” which apparently applies to any disciplinary allegation.
This complaint process emphasizes “informal” resolutions, suggesting students should “resolve the issue directly with the faculty or staff member directly involved.” It offers no framework for how this should occur.
The school also provides for “formal” complaint resolutions and includes four guidelines for how these should work:
- Students are responsible for initiating complaints.
- Students should contact the “appropriate division/area office” to file complaints.
- If a student is unsatisfied with the division/area office's response, they should contact the Vice President of Student Services or the Vice President of Instruction.
- Students will receive written notifications every time they file a complaint.
Noticeably absent from this list: any discussion of how the administration actually deals with complaints. The policy doesn't, for example, mention any sort of hearing process, suggesting individual administrators are solely responsible for deciding whether or not a student is responsible for policy violations.
Elsewhere, the school notes that it is committed to providing students with due process rights but doesn't explain how it does this. Unfortunately, theory and praxis can be entirely different, however, and accused students must be mindful of such concerns.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento Specializes in College Disciplinary Cases
Fullerton College isn't always clear about how it deals with instances of academic misconduct. That means it may be difficult to get justice if you've been falsely accused or if you feel your penalty is too harsh. Luckily, the school is clear about one thing:
“Students who are uncomfortable speaking to the faculty or staff member have the right to have someone accompany them throughout the process.”
If you've been accused, you have the right to seek help in defending yourself.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has years of experience representing students across the United States in disciplinary cases. He's worked with hundreds of clients just like you, helping them fight academic misconduct charges and negotiate for the best possible outcome, including lesser sanctions as needed. Joseph D. Lento knows the law and how to protect your rights. More importantly, though, he knows how colleges and universities work. Joseph D. Lento is comfortable talking with faculty and administrators. He can make sure you are treated fairly and that you get the best possible resolution to your case.
If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct at Fullerton College, make sure you have qualified representation. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.