It's not always easy to avoid a charge of academic misconduct, especially these days. Often, for instance, your professors want you to collaborate with your classmates. Collaborate too much, though, and you could wind up accused of cheating. You're supposed to follow models when you complete your work but copy a bit too much computer code when you're writing your own programs, and you could be facing a plagiarism charge.
How do you protect yourself from spurious charges and overblown sanctions? You don't take any allegation lightly. You question every accusation, and you challenge every sanction.
That doesn't mean you should try to take on your school alone, though. You can expect that the faculty will close ranks with one another, and that the administration will give them the benefit of the doubt. If you want to win your case, salvage your reputation, and continue your academic career, you're going to need help from an attorney-advisor.
How Kean University Defines Academic Misconduct
Defending yourself from any charge starts with knowing exactly what you've been accused of doing. You can't prove your innocence if you don't know what you're supposed to have done.
Of course, every school defines academic honesty and dishonesty in its own way. Here's what Kean University's Academic Integrity Policy specifically forbids.
- Cheating: The school's definition of cheating is just about as broad as a definition can get. Cheating is “an act of deception” that “misrepresents” your “mastery of material.” In simple terms, if you manage to convince your professors you know something that you really don't, you're cheating.
- Plagiarism: Kean University's definition of plagiarism is similarly inclusive. It's not just about claiming another person's words as your own. You can be accused of plagiarism for borrowing ideas, phrases, sentences, and data. In addition, you don't have to plagiarize deliberately to be in trouble. Simply forgetting to cite a source is enough.
- Fabrication: This can include making up lab results or inventing sources for a paper. It may also include things like forging a doctor's note to get out of an exam.
As if these three categories of violation weren't broad enough, Kean adds a fourth: “Academic Misconduct.” It consists of “any other act of academic dishonesty.” Bottom line, your instructors can accuse you of academic misconduct for virtually anything.
The one rule is usually that they must describe their expectations in their syllabi. It's important, then, that in addition to understanding these four types of violations, you go over every syllabus with a fine-tooth comb at the beginning of each semester. Even that may not be enough to protect you from an accusation.
Judicial Procedures at Kean University
In addition to knowing what you've been accused of doing, you also need to familiarize yourself with your school's procedures for handling allegations.
Faculty have the primary responsibility for identifying, investigating, and punishing incidents of academic dishonesty at Kean University. However, the school offers instructors a good deal of guidance on how to go about deciding on punishments.
Basically, instructors are meant to categorize violations based on their level of severity, with level one as the most minor kinds of infractions and level four as the most serious. Sanctions should then be based on the level of the offense. So, for example, an improper citation in a freshman comp paper might be designated as a level one offense. The recommended punishment is a makeup assignment or attendance at a workshop on how to cite sources. A level three violation, on the other hand, would involve copying at least twenty-five percent of a paper from a source and would warrant academic probation or suspension.
In addition, faculty must submit a record of each violation to the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs. The policy also notes that purchasing a paper online is against New Jersey State law and punishable by up to a $1,000 fine.
You do have the right to appeal your instructor's decisions, both the accusation itself and the proposed sanction. In such cases, the Vice President for Academic Affairs convenes the University Appeals Board (UAB), made up of members of the Faculty Senate. You have the right to make your case directly to the UAB and to have an attorney present, though attorneys are only invited to observe, not participate.
How Joseph D. Lento Can Help
Students—even innocent students—are sometimes reticent to challenge their instructors' decisions. That's understandable. Judicial procedures are often complex, and no one wants to risk rocking the academic boat.
Here's why that's a mistake, though. Any sanction, even a makeup assignment or a warning, can cause you serious problems if it should wind up in your academic file. You could lose scholarship money; you could be denied internship and fellowship opportunities; you could have trouble getting into graduate school. The fact is no one, including an employer, is anxious to approve the application of someone with a history of cheating.
Schools do get it wrong. They accuse students unfairly, and they assign punishments all out of proportion to the nature of the offenses. You have the right to fight back, and it's always in your best interest to do so. Just make sure you have help.
Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in advising student clients. In other words, 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.