Academic Misconduct at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette

College is hard enough as it is, you've got calculus to worry about, your roommate isn't talking to you, and all your underwear turned pink in the laundry last week. The last thing you want to be dealing with is an accusation of academic misconduct. Who has time to gather evidence, track down witnesses, and meet with administrators?

Academic misconduct can be especially tricky at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. It's no easy task to sort out the school's policy on integrity. In fact, the rules are so vague that you can easily make a mistake without realizing you've done anything wrong, and there's no clear procedure for defending yourself.

So, study the rules, and do all you can to stay out of trouble. If you should find yourself accused, though, know that you don't have to deal with all of this alone. Help is out there. You can find out more by contacting the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.

Defining Academic Misconduct

Every college and university maintains an academic integrity policy. You can understand why: no school can survive long if it has a reputation for cheating. Employers just aren't interested in hiring graduates from a second-rate university.

However, every school defines academic misconduct a little differently. The good news is ULL's policy is relatively simple. Other schools talk about complicated behaviors like “misrepresentation,” “falsification,” and “sabotage” and offer long lists of examples. ULL lists just two basic kinds of violations: cheating and plagiarism.

Cheating: Cheating, as ULL defines it, means using unauthorized materials to complete coursework. The policy goes on to list examples, like using notes during an exam, using a calculator when that's been prohibited, and collaborating on homework with a classmate without permission. It's also worth noting that helping someone else to cheat is its own violation.

Plagiarism: ULL's definition of plagiarism is fairly straightforward as well – attempting to pass off another person's “ideas or words” as your own. Of course, most of us think of plagiarism in relation to written documents, but as the policy goes on to point out, it's also possible to plagiarize “musical compositions, science reports, laboratory experiments, and theses and dissertations.”

Here's the bad news. Sometimes, there's a downside to simplicity. ULL's description of academic integrity is certainly concise, but that leaves a lot of room for interpretation and misinterpretation. One professor's “citation error” can be another one's “plagiarism.” One instructor's “collaboration” may be another one's “cheating.” When the guidelines are too vague, you can often wind up in trouble before you know you've done anything wrong.

Sanctions

What can happen to you if you're found responsible for academic misconduct? It turns out the penalties at ULL are just as vague as the rest of the policy. In fact, the entire section on sanctions is just three sentences long. Those three sentences list the minimum penalty as a failure on the assignment. The maximum penalty is expulsion.

It is worth noting that this minimum penalty is relatively harsh. Most schools, for example, allow instructors to give partial credit on assignments or to ask students to re-submit work. Not ULL.

It is equally worth noting just how much is left unsaid here. There are, of course, many penalties that might lie between these two extremes, like a failure in the course, probation, and suspension. In addition, because no specific sanctions are tied to specific misconduct, it is impossible to know just what kind of penalty you might receive in any particular situation. Again, if you should be accused, you may remain in the dark for some time before you know exactly what will happen to you.

Procedures

Finally, the adjudication procedures at ULL are muddy as well.

ULL doesn't maintain separate procedures for dealing with academic misconduct. Instead, it treats academic misconduct as simply another kind of disciplinary misconduct, lumped in with other offenses like vandalism and assault. This suggests that instructors don't have direct control over identifying and punishing academic misconduct. Instead, they are directed to file a complaint with the Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities, who apparently investigates, adjudicates, and assigns a sanction.

Cases, then, are dealt with just as any other misconduct case. Essentially, students who aren't willing to confess are allowed to defend themselves at an administrative hearing overseen by an Administrative Hearing Officer (AHO). They can offer evidence and suggest witnesses. However, the Student Code of Conduct makes little mention of their rights, such as whether or not students may be accompanied by an advisor.

The AHO ultimately decides the case using the “preponderance of evidence” standard. That is, they determine whether it is “more likely than not” that a respondent committed an offense. In addition, they assign penalties as necessary.

Students do have the right to appeal the AHO's decision, but only under certain very specific circumstances:

  • The discovery of new evidence
  • Procedural error
  • Disproportionate sanctions

In addition, students can appeal if the sanction is expulsion.

What To Do if You're Accused

Students often think they can handle academic misconduct accusations on their own. In fact, many think it's easier to just accept the penalty and move on. A violation, though—even a small one—can have a large impact on your academic and professional future. Even if the worst you face is a failing grade on an assignment, violations often wind up as part of your permanent record. That could cost you scholarship money, fellowship opportunities, even some jobs. Whether you are completely innocent or simply want to negotiate a deal that keeps your future intact, you're almost always better contesting an allegation.

That's no easy task, though, at ULL since nothing about the disciplinary process is clear.

Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento is an attorney who specializes in student misconduct cases across the United States. Attorney Lento has served as an advisor to hundreds of students just like you, helping them get the fair resolutions they deserve. Joseph D. Lento knows how to untangle complex school policies, and he's experienced in dealing with university faculty and administrators. Put attorney Joseph D. Lento to work for you.

If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct, don't wait. Act now to protect your future. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 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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