Academic Misconduct at Minnesota State University, Mankato

What do you do if you're facing a charge of academic misconduct at your university? What you don't do is ignore it. Yes, it can be tough to challenge a professor. After all, they have the weight of the school behind them. Judicial procedures in these cases can be tricky to navigate. Winning your case is going to take time and perseverance.

Consider the alternative, though. You could be facing a lower grade in the course. Your professor might even decide to fail you. And even if the sanction is light, if you admit to cheating, that admission could very well show up on your permanent academic record. That could keep you from getting scholarships, interfere with your ability to find a good internship, and even limit your job prospects.

So, what do you do if you're facing a charge of academic misconduct? You find out everything you can about how your school treats these cases. You research the rules and the penalties. You learn about the process. Then, you make sure you have an advisor by your side, someone with experience protecting students' rights. You can win this fight, but you're going to need help doing it.

Defining Academic Misconduct at Minnesota State University, Mankato

Knowing the rules at your university can obviously help keep you out of trouble. It's also a key element of a strong defense. When you know exactly what you're being accused of, it's much easier to prove your innocence.

MNSU's Policy on Academic Honesty is pretty brief in comparison to other schools' policies. It lists just three kinds of violations: plagiarism, cheating, and collusion.

Plagiarism: Most of us know this term. It means submitting another person's work as your own without giving them proper credit. You may not realize just what it covers, though. You can't copy another person's words; you also can't steal their ideas. You can't copy your own work: you're not allowed to turn the same work in to two different classes. And plagiarism doesn't just apply to text: you can plagiarize images, videos, or even computer code.

Cheating: MNSU defines cheating as the “use of unauthorized material or assistance to help fulfill academic assignments.” Here again, this definition is deceptively simple. In fact, it covers a whole multitude of misbehavior. The key is the phrase “unauthorized material.” That includes using a book during a closed-book exam or hiding a crib sheet under the label of your water bottle. It covers stealing a copy of the exam from the professor's office. Even talking to a student from another section of the course about what to expect on the exam qualifies as cheating.

Collusion: Finally, MNSU's policy prohibits collusion. Essentially, the school treats helping someone else to commit academic misconduct the same as if you had committed the misconduct yourself.

You might think that a list as short as this one suggests that MNSU takes a lax attitude towards academic misconduct. In fact, hidden dangers lurk in this policy. For one thing, broad general categories like these can be interpreted in lots of different ways. That means it's easy for instructors to level an accusation at you and make it stick. In fact, the policy itself notes that this list is not inclusive, suggesting faculty can allege almost anything against and find ways to justify it.

Academic Misconduct Procedures

Your instructor has the primary responsibility for identifying and punishing instances of academic misconduct. They are required to notify you of any accusations and to give you the opportunity to meet and review their evidence against you.

However, if they do determine you are responsible for a violation, they have limited options.

  • Assign no penalty but provide additional education on academic dishonesty
  • Assign you a zero for the assignment in question
  • Drop you from the course with a grade of F

In addition, instructors can recommend the school apply more severe disciplinary sanctions such as probation, suspension, or expulsion.

MNSU does offer a process for appealing your instructor's decisions, but the process isn't an easy one. Basically, it involves moving up the chain of command. Your first appeal, for example, is to the chair of the department in which the course is offered. Should this appeal fail, you can further appeal to the Dean of the College. Finally, you can appeal the Dean's decision to the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

In each case, you'll meet with the decision maker to explain your side of the situation and present any evidence you may have of your innocence. There are indications in the policy, though, that you may have trouble getting them to believe you.

  • In each case, a single administrator makes the final decision. You don't have the right to present your case to a committee or to be judged by a peer, such as another student.
  • The policy lists two possible outcomes of these appeals: “Support the proposed corrective action” and “Suggest an alternative corrective action.” It doesn't say the decision makers can “overturn” the instructor's decision.
  • Should the decision maker decide on an alternative corrective action, the instructor then has the right to appeal that decision to a higher authority.

The only way to protect yourself in such a system is to make sure you have someone on your side who knows the system and knows how to protect your rights within that system.

Joseph D. Lento, Academic Misconduct Attorney-Advisor

By this point, you probably have a good sense of why you need an attorney if you've been accused of academic misconduct. Your future is on the line, and MNSU doesn't make it easy to fight for it. You need absolutely every advantage you can get.

Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in advising student clients. In fact, he built his career fighting for student rights. 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, trust Joseph D. Lento to get you 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.

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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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