There is a reason colleges and universities treat academic integrity so seriously. No school can survive long if it develops a reputation for cheating. Turns out, employers aren't anxious to hire graduates from schools like that. That's especially true if your college is focused on a subject like criminal justice.
It's one thing to take cheating seriously, though. It's quite another to institute policies that are so strict it's hard to do coursework without breaking some rule or other, or punishments so draconian they become punitive rather than educational. Many colleges go too far in policing their students these days.
What do you do if you find yourself accused?
- Do respond. You have a right to defend yourself, and you have a right to fair sanctions.
- Don't try to take your school on alone. Campus justice can be every bit as complex as courtroom justice, and you need someone at your side to help you make sense of it all.
Defining Academic Misconduct
Every school defines academic misconduct just a little differently. It's important you know how CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice does it. Obviously, this will help you avoid getting into trouble in the first place. More importantly, if you should be charged with a violation, it's vital you understand exactly what you're being accused of having done.
John Jay divides academic misconduct into just five categories, though these five cover a multitude of sins.
- Cheating: Often, this is used as a generic term for misconduct, but it actually refers specifically to the use of unauthorized materials in completing your coursework. Unauthorized materials can mean anything from a classmate's quiz answers to a stolen copy of an exam to another person. If the answers aren't coming from you, it's cheating.
- Plagiarism: In some ways, this is a specialized form of cheating. Plagiarism means presenting another person's words or ideas as your own without giving them credit.
- Internet Plagiarism: These days digital misconduct has become the preferred method for many students, so John Jay goes to the trouble of giving it its own category. The point is, cutting and pasting without giving credit is just as wrong as copying something out by hand and not giving credit.
- Obtaining Unfair Advantage: This one is a sort of catchall for any misconduct the other categories don't cover. Basically, it says you shouldn't do anything that gives you an unfair advantage in completing your coursework.
- Falsification: Finally, the school prohibits you from falsifying any information on official documents. This includes obvious misbehaviors like changing your transcript grades, but it also includes less obvious offenses like forging a doctor's note to get out of a quiz.
Navigating the System
As important as knowing what the rules are, you also need to know what the procedures are when you've been accused.
Faculty have the primary responsibility for identifying academic misconduct and assigning academic sanctions, though anyone can report instances of misconduct. Typically, the instructor will meet with you to discuss the allegation and get your side of the story. If they are convinced you've committed an offense, they'll assign a punishment that can range from a simple warning to a loss of points on the assignment, all the way to a failure in the course.
Your instructor must also report the incident to the school's Academic Integrity Officer. That officer will further evaluate the accusation and has the power to assign further “disciplinary” sanctions if the offense is particularly egregious or you have a history of prior offenses. These sanctions can include probation, suspension, and expulsion.
Of course, if you admit to cheating, and you accept your punishment, the process is pretty simple. If you deny the allegation, though, or contest the severity of the punishment, things get a little more complicated.
- Admitting the offense and contesting the academic sanction: You can appeal the sanction through your department's grade appeal process. Usually, this involves submitting a written summary of your position, along with documentary evidence, to a committee.
- Denying the academic offense itself: You appear before the school's Academic Integrity Committee and present your case. You may submit evidence and call witnesses on your behalf. The faculty member who accused you has the right to do the same.
- Responding to a disciplinary sanction: You can appeal any disciplinary sanctions to the Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee. You do this before you present your appeal of the academic sanctions. If the Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee finds you innocent, it lifts all of the sanctions against you. Otherwise, it can affirm the disciplinary sanction or void the disciplinary sanction but refer the matter back to the Academic Integrity Committee.
Joseph D. Lento, Academic Misconduct Advisor
Many students don't bother to contest an academic misconduct accusation. They're afraid of reprisals from the instructor or the school or feel like it's just easier to accept a sanction and move on. The problem with that mentality is that violations can have repercussions that last long after the course has ended. Even a warning, if it's recorded in your permanent record, can hurt you down the road. You could lose scholarships or have trouble getting into grad school. You might even have to answer questions about it at job interviews.
You can and should fight any accusation. You have the right to defend your reputation.
Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in defending student clients. Over the years, he's helped hundreds of students just like you defend themselves from all types of academic misconduct charges, big and small. Joseph D. Lento is skilled at developing defense strategies, but because he works primarily on-campus justice cases, he also understands how schools operate. He knows the procedures you'll face, and he's adept at dealing with faculty and administrators. Most importantly, Joseph D. Lento is sympathetic to your situation. He's seen the way colleges and universities go after their students, and he's committed to putting a stop to it.
If you've been accused of academic misconduct, don't wait. Contact Joseph D. Lento today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.