Despite what the brochures may tell you, college is no picnic. Never mind astronomy pop quizzes and calculus midterms. You have to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. Also, you still need to figure out how to do your own laundry.
Throw an accusation of academic misconduct into the mix, and you'll likely find yourself dropping a few of those many balls you've got up in the air.
A lot of news stories have appeared lately claiming academic dishonesty is at an all-time high. Whether that's true or not, college faculties certainly believe it is. Most are now on high alert. Unfortunately, itchy trigger fingers lead to false allegations. And once an instructor has accused a student of cheating, they are often reticent to walk that accusation back.
What can you do to protect yourself from such charges? First, make sure you know how your university defines academic misconduct and what their process is for dealing with allegations. The more you know, the better chance you'll have to defend yourself. Then, pick up your cell phone and call attorney Joseph D. Lento to help. You don't want to fight a university alone.
How SFSU Defines Academic Misconduct
San Francisco State University isn't especially forthcoming when it comes to defining academic misconduct. Where they do post information online, they don't always explain things in a straightforward way. That could mean they would prefer you don't ask too many questions.
Their page on “academic dishonesty” focuses primarily on two specific types of violations. The first of these violations is “cheating.” According to the site, this can include:
- Using unauthorized sources during an exam
- Copying someone's work
- Changing work before resubmitting it for re-grading
- Submitting the same work in multiple classes
- Holding on to materials an instructor has asked you to return
- Helping anyone do any of the above
The page also explains “plagiarism.” The Office of Student Conduct defines this simply as “taking the words, ideas, or substance of another and either copying or paraphrasing the work without giving credit to the source.” That language seems clear enough, but it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. For example, is an improper citation plagiarism? Elsewhere, the computer science department reminds students that plagiarism can involve using someone's computer code without giving them credit.
Below paragraphs on cheating and plagiarism, the school lists several other examples of academic misconduct:
- Possessing someone's work without their permission
- Providing materials you know will be improperly used
- Buying, selling, or trading class assignment materials
- Altering someone's work
- Giving any false information
- Altering student records
- Forging signatures
- Inventing false data
Some of the items on this list may seem legalistic or even archaic. “Forging signatures,” for instance, sounds more like the act of a Wall Street embezzler than a bleary-eyed sophomore college student. Yet, signing someone's name to an attendance sheet absolutely qualifies.
How SFSU Prosecutes Academic Misconduct
You'll have just as much trouble finding information about SFSU's procedures for dealing with misconduct as you had finding information about the offense itself. The school does maintain a page titled “Student Conduct Process Explained,” which contains three videos and a flow chart. However, that page references a 33-page executive order outlining the entire student conduct resolution process without providing a link to the order itself.
What is clear is that the academic misconduct resolution process has two independent parts.
First, the instructor making the accusation assigns a penalty for the offense. This can range from a warning to a failure on the given assignment to a failure in the course.
Curiously, the school places final authority for grading in the instructor's hands, ignoring the possibility that a student might be innocent. As the page on academic dishonesty notes, “The faculty or instructor has sole decision making authority on grading.” Even more alarming, just below this sentence, the page goes on to say in no uncertain terms, “if a professor refers the matter to the OSC, our outcome on the matter has no bearing on the professor's final decision regarding grading.” In short, when it comes to academic misconduct, the instructor serves as accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner.
The grade resolution to a case of academic misconduct is only the first part of the process. The instructor is obligated to report the offense to the Office of Student Conduct. That office then investigates the incident. If the OSC finds a student guilty, the student can accept the resolution proposed by the OSC or ask for a hearing. Should the hearing panel find the student guilty, they then make a recommendation to the university's president. The president's decision cannot be appealed.
Contact Joseph D. Lento for Student Discipline Defense
You should never take a charge of academic misconduct lightly. Beyond any grade reduction you receive in an individual class, the school can impose sanctions up to and including suspension and expulsion. Beyond any direct penalties, a notation about cheating on your academic record could prevent you from getting scholarships, from enrolling in specific degree programs, from transferring to another institution. Worse still, it could prevent you from finding that all-important first job after college. Employers aren't typically enthusiastic about hiring graduates with a reputation for dishonesty.
Keep in mind as well that the school is not on your side in an academic misconduct case. The instructor who made the allegation is a representative of your university, and the university would rather expel you than admit one of its representatives made a mistake. Indeed, the administration may even try to convince you that you don't need to talk to an attorney.
Don't believe them. You need someone on your side, someone who will look out for your best interests rather than the school's. Joseph D. Lento has years of experience defending students against charges of academic misconduct. He knows the university system. He also knows the law. Joseph D. Lento will fight to make sure your school doesn't trample on your rights and that you get the best possible outcome to your case.
For more information about academic misconduct, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.