Colleges and universities take academic integrity seriously, as well they should. Your ability to get a good job out of school is directly related to your school's reputation. It turns out, employers aren't interested in hiring graduates from universities that are known for cheating.
That doesn't mean schools are always fair about how they go about making accusations and assigning punishments. In fact, many universities have become far too trigger-happy in recent years and far too willing to dole out sanctions that are simply out of proportion to the nature of the offenses.
It's important you know that you don't have to simply accept your instructor's decisions. You have the right to challenge their allegations and to question their sanctions. Before you decide to do that, though, make sure you know all there is to know about how your school handles these cases.
Defining Academic Misconduct at the University of West Georgia
It's always useful to know what the rules are. Obviously, that helps you avoid making mistakes in the first place. It's also crucial, though, if you're trying to defend yourself from an allegation. You can't explain your innocence if you don't know exactly what you're being accused of having done.
A copy of UWG's policy on academic integrity is located in the Student Handbook. The rules are relatively straightforward. In fact, the university lists just three types of violations.
- Cheating: The use or attempted use of unauthorized materials to complete your coursework.
- Fabrication: The unauthorized invention of material for your coursework.
- Plagiarism: The attempt to pass another person's words or ideas off as your own without giving them due credit.
Here's the thing about simple, straightforward rules: often, they are so vague that your school can charge you for virtually anything and make it stick. Notice, for instance, how open-ended the phrase “unauthorized materials” is in the first violation description. Obviously, you know better than to Google answers on your phone during an exam. Technically, though, you could be charged simply for asking a student from another section what to expect.
This is just one reason why it can be so useful to have an attorney-advisor on your side. There are always extenuating circumstances. Attorneys are experts at explaining how these factor into your innocence.
UWG Sanctions and Procedures
You need to know the rules if you're planning to defend yourself from a charge of academic misconduct. You also need to know what procedures your school employs to adjudicate such accusations. What rights do you have as a “respondent” (defendant), and who ultimately gets to decide your fate?
Instructors at the University of West Georgia have primary responsibility for identifying violations, investigating incidents, and punishing offenders. If they believe you're guilty of misconduct, they are supposed to make you aware of the charges and the penalty they are planning to impose. However, they aren't obliged to give you a chance to explain your side of the story. Sanctions generally include:
- Verbal or written warning
- Retest or makeup assignment
- Assignment specifically focused on academic integrity
- Lower grade on the assignment in question up to a zero
- Lower grade in the class up to a failure
In addition, instructors are required to submit an incident report to the Office of Community Standards. This office has the authority to assign additional disciplinary sanctions for repeat offenses and violations that are especially egregious. These additional sanctions can include:
The UWG policy offers nothing in the way of recourse for most sanctions. If your instructor insists you re-write a paper, you may have no choice but to re-write it. However, you do have the right to appeal any grade you were given for “dishonesty.” The appeals process basically follows the chain of administrative command at the university. That is,
- You first submit a Grade Appeal Form and documentation of your argument to the chair of the department that houses the course.
- If the chair should deny your appeal, your next option is to file additional paperwork with the dean of the school that hosts the department.
- Finally, should the dean also deny your request, you can appeal to the university's Grade Appeal Subcommittee.
Keep in mind that you can appeal the instructor's findings, or you can accept the findings—that is, admit your responsibility—and still appeal the severity of the sanction. Faculty can be very heavy-handed these days about punishments.
In addition, it's important to remember that well-written explanations and documentary evidence are going to give you the very best chance of winning your case. This is yet another reason why it can be so useful to have an attorney-advisor help you prepare your case. Beyond accompanying you to meetings and proceedings, they can help you collect materials and draft documents.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help
Students charged with misconduct don't always challenge their instructors, and you can understand why. It's no easy matter to go through the rigors of appealing faculty decisions, and you're by no means guaranteed to succeed. It can sometimes seem like more trouble than it's worth to file appeal after appeal.
Here's what's wrong with that thinking: any finding against you, even if you're only given a warning, can have long-term consequences if it should be reported in your academic record. Even the suggestion of academic dishonesty can keep you from getting internships and graduate school fellowships or interfere with your ability to get a good first job out of college.
It's always better to fight. Joseph D. Lento can help you do that.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney. That means 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.