The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is an educational institution that takes academic integrity very seriously. The school expects students to abide by the Vaquero Honor Code, a guide based on the virtues of honesty and integrity. Students are expected to apply this code to every aspect of student life, including academics. They're expected to work hard and do the work necessary to obtain their degrees without engaging in any sort of academic dishonesty. If academic dishonesty does arise, the school deals with it swiftly and firmly.
What Are Some Examples of What the School Considers Academic Dishonesty?
There are four levels of academic integrity violations at the school ranging from Level One to Level Four, with Level Four being the most serious. Level One violations include things like incorrectly citing a source on a paper, while Level Four violations include behavior like taking an exam for someone else. Other examples of academic dishonesty at the school include the following.
- The student uses fake or false references or findings during research, tests, or other types of academic exercises.
- The student fakes lab data in order to “prove” an experiment.
- The student hires another student or uses a service to write a paper for them and then submits it as their own.
- A student takes a test and then gives information from the test to another student or students who will be taking the exam later.
- The student receives an unsatisfactory grade on a paper, changes the content of the paper without permission, and then resubmits the paper, asking for reconsideration.
- The student goes out of their way to destroy academic materials like library books and other items that other students may need for a course, leading them to gain an unfair academic advantage.
- Gaslighting the instructor by telling them that they handed in the assignment and the instructor must have lost it.
- The student is able to get a copy of the exam or the answer key in advance of the exam.
- Signing in another student as “present” even if they're not there.
- Writing answers on desks or on the floor prior to an exam.
Once a student is accused of academic misconduct, the response from the school is firm and swift.
What Happens When a Student Is Suspected of Academic Misconduct?
There are two approaches that an instructor can take at the school if they suspect that a student has engaged in academic misconduct.
One option is for the instructor to reach out to the student directly. They'll determine whether a violation has occurred and figure out if the issue can be resolved. If the student admits fault, they'll receive a sanction determined by faculty called a Faculty Disposition. The student and the instructor will sign the Faculty Disposition form and send it to SRR (Student Rights and Responsibilities) for review. SRR will then determine if the sanction is sufficient or if additional sanctions are warranted.
If the student chooses not to admit fault, the second option comes into play. With this option, the instructor refers the student directly to SRR. SRR will look into the situation, meet with both parties, and determine if there's enough evidence to support a violation. If SRR determines that a violation did take place, the student can either accept responsibility and receive an Administrative Disposition, or they can refuse to accept one and move to the formal hearing/appeal stage.
What Happens If a Student Denies the Allegations?
Students who deny allegations of academic misconduct that have been levied against them are allowed to file an appeal. During the appeal process, the student disputes the charges in front of a hearing officer. The student will be given a minimum of ten days' notice of the exact time, date, and location of the hearing. They'll also be given the name of the Hearing Officer who will be overhearing their case. After the hearing, the case is either dismissed or the student is found guilty, and a sanction is imposed.
What if the Student Thinks the Hearing Won't Be Fair?
There may be a situation where the student doesn't believe that the Hearing Officer assigned to their case will be fair and impartial. If that's the case, the student is allowed to challenge the assignment. They'll need to challenge it in writing and explain why they feel that they won't get a fair trial with the assigned Hearing Officer. That letter is then sent to the Hearing Officer via the Office of the Dean up to three days before the hearing date.
Students should be aware that the Hearing Officer themselves will determine whether or not they will be able to be impartial. This can make it really uncomfortable for a student who truly believes they won't be given a fair shot.
Can the Student Have an Attorney?
Students accused of academic integrity at UTRGV and who are going through the hearing process are allowed to be assisted by an advisor of their choosing, and that advisor can be an attorney. Having an attorney-advisor like Joseph D. Lento by your side can help put your mind at ease. He knows the ins and outs of all types of academic misconduct cases, giving you the info you need to address your specific situation.
Reach Out for Legal Help
Preparing a strong defense is one of the most important things you should do when dealing with academic misconduct allegations.
Students who've committed academic misconduct have that information stored on their academic records. Depending on the severity of the charge or charges, that information can make it difficult for them to obtain certain jobs or transfer to other schools. You need to put up as strong a fight as possible to minimize the chance of future and lifelong negative consequences. Reach out to the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 for help.