College comes with its fair share of challenges: You've got calculus to get through; your roommate's been inexplicably angry since mid-September; you still haven't figured out why all your laundry keeps turning a pale shade of pink.
If you've been charged with academic misconduct, though, you're facing a particularly difficult challenge. Disciplinary procedures can be complicated and time-consuming, and the consequences of being found responsible can do serious damage to your academic and professional future.
Take the time right now, at the beginning, to learn all you can about how your school deals with these kinds of cases. Will there be an official hearing? What kind of sanctions could the school give you? Should you hire an attorney? The fact is, the more answers you have, the more likely you'll be able to successfully defend yourself.
Defining Academic Misconduct
As a starting point, you need to know exactly how your school defines academic misconduct, since understanding the charges against you is the first step to fighting them.
CUNY, Baruch’s Academic Integrity Policy lists five separate kinds of violations.
- Cheating: CUNY, Baruch defines this as the “attempted or unauthorized use of materials.” That's a pretty broad-ranging description. It includes simple things, like looking on another students' paper during an exam, It also includes more sophisticated cheating methods, like writing answers in a blue book using ultraviolet ink or concealing course notes on the inside of a water bottle label.
- Plagiarism: Most of us recognize that it's wrong to buy a paper online and submit it to our freshman comp professor. Plagiarism isn't always so cut and dried however. It means passing someone else's ideas off as your own, and it doesn't just apply to the written word. You can plagiarize art, music, even computer code.
- Obtaining an Unfair Advantage: This one is a bit of a catchall, designed to address any academic misconduct the other four categories might miss. It includes things like circulating exam materials you were supposed to return and doing intentional damage to another student's work. It also includes “defacing” library materials, so you want to make sure you don't read with a pen in your hand.
- Falsification of Records and Official Documents: Again, some types of falsification are pretty easy to spot: hacking into the school's mainframe and trying to change your transcript will probably get you into trouble. Less obvious ways to violate this restriction, though, include forging a doctor's note or signing a classmate's name on the daily attendance log.
- Collusion: Finally, you don't have to be cheating on your own behalf to be guilty of academic misconduct. Helping others to cheat is just as serious an offense.
Most of these offenses seem pretty cut and dried, but keep in mind that anyone can make a mistake without meaning to. Maybe you happened to mention a particularly difficult exam question to your roommate who takes a different section of the course. Does that mean you be suspended, or worse? Know the rules, but understand that even the best of us can wind up being accused even without realizing we've done anything wrong.
Processes and Penalties
CUNY, Baruch is somewhat unusual in how it investigates and adjudicates accusations of academic misconduct. At most schools, instructors have the power to accuse and punish, and the school's administration serves as a place to appeal the instructors' decisions. At CUNY, Baruch, in contrast, faculty submit all allegations to the Dean of Students. It is the Dean's Office that actually determines whether a student is “responsible” for violating policy or not. If the office decides you are not-responsible, the case is, of course, dismissed. If you are found responsible, you may be subject to two different kinds of sanctions:
- Academic sanctions: These are recommended by the course instructor and can range from verbal warnings to course failure.
- Disciplinary sanctions: These are determined by the Dean's Office, and can include anything from a warning, to probation, suspension, or expulsion.
Students have the right to appeal the Dean's Office decision. There are three possibilities for appeal.
- You can appeal the disciplinary sanction: If you accept responsibility for your actions and accept the instructor's punishment but don't believe you deserve the disciplinary sanction you've been given, you can appeal this directly to the Dean of Students.
- You can appeal the academic sanction: If you accept responsibility for your actions but disagree with the punishment your instructor has assigned, you are directed to follow the particular department's “grade appeal procedures.”
- You can appeal the decision: Finally, if you disagree with the decision itself—if you feel you are innocent of the charges—you can ask to present your case before the Faculty Student Disciplinary Committee. You'll have the opportunity to present evidence, call witnesses on your behalf, and cross-examine witnesses against you. In addition, you are entitled to choose an advisor to help you with your case, and this advisor may be an attorney.
Joseph D. Lento, Academic Misconduct Attorney
You may be tempted to simply accept what's happening to you, to deal with whatever sanction you've been given and just move on. Challenging your instructor, let alone your university, can seem daunting. The problem with that strategy is that academic violations hang around. At CUNY, Baruch, they get noted on your transcript, and that can cause all kinds of headaches. You could lose scholarship money; you might have trouble getting into grad school; and employers aren't usually anxious to hire graduates with a history of cheating.
Plus, you don't have to deal with this situation alone.
Joseph D. Lento is a highly experienced attorney who specializes in college and university misconduct cases. He's served as advisor to hundreds of students and helped them get the justice they deserved. Whether you're looking to prove your innocence or to negotiate a fair sanction, attorney Joseph D. Lento can help 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