Academic Misconduct Charges at St. Cloud State University

What should you do if you're facing a charge of academic misconduct from your college or university?

What you shouldn't do is ignore it.

Too many students simply accept accusations against them, even when they're entirely innocent. They're too afraid to challenge their instructors, they're worried about what repercussions they might face from their school, or they just feel like it's just too much trouble to go through the process of gathering evidence, filling out paperwork, and building a case. Better to just accept the sanction and move on.

Here's the problem with that thinking: academic misconduct can have long-lasting effects on your academic and professional future. Even a minor sanction, like a written warning, can cause problems if it winds up on your academic record. You could lose scholarships, have trouble getting into graduate school, or even struggle to find that all-important first job out of college.

So, let's start again. What should you do if you're facing a charge of academic misconduct from your college or university?

  1. Understand the Accusation Your first job when you're accused should be to find out all you can about the charges. You can't hope to defend yourself if you don't understand exactly what it is you're supposed to have done. St. Cloud State University's policy on academic integrity lists five separate types of violations. Here's what you need to know about each one.
  • Cheating: The term cheating actually encompasses a multitude of sins. Having someone take an exam for you is cheating. So, too, is Googling answers to a quiz. Using a crib sheet qualifies, as does asking a student from another section what to expect on a test. In simplest terms, cheating means the use of any unauthorized resources in completing your coursework.
  • Plagiarism: Plagiarism involves trying to pass another person's work off as your own without giving them due credit. As with cheating, there are many different ways to plagiarize. Obviously, you shouldn't buy your term paper from an online paper mill. You shouldn't steal your ideas from academic articles you read. Improper citations might also get you in trouble, though. And, you should know that plagiarism doesn't just apply to text. You can plagiarize images, video, music, and even computer code.
  • Collusion: St. Cloud's policy makes clear that helping someone else to commit academic misconduct is just as serious an offense as if you had committed the misconduct yourself.
  • Fabrication: Fabrication means inventing materials or falsifying results. Examples would include making up lab results or listing fake sources in your paper's bibliography.
  • Scientific Misconduct: This applies more to graduate students than undergraduates. It has to do with violations of research ethics, such as mistreating research subjects or falsifying data.
  • Finally, you should be aware that St. Cloud reserves the right to accuse you of academic misconduct or any other forms of “academic dishonesty.” In particular, your instructor has the right to impose additional rules and requirements in their courses. Typically, such rules must be included in the syllabus in order to be official. This is why it's always a good idea to read through your syllabi carefully at the start of each semester, so you are clear about all expectations.
  • Know the System Knowing what you're accused of is a good start, but you also need to know how your university's judicial system operates. What processes are used to determine your guilt or innocence, and what rights do you have to defend yourself? At St. Cloud State University, instructors have the primary responsibility for identifying, investigating, and punishing incidents of academic dishonesty. Instructors inform students about violations through an Academic Integrity Allegation Form (AIAF). They must then provide students an opportunity to meet and discuss the allegations and the proposed sanction. Of course, if you confess to the offense and accept your punishment, the case is simple. Your instructor submits the AIAF to the Dean of the school that houses the course, who maintains records of all infractions. Note that the Dean has the power to impose additional sanctions if you have a history of offenses, up to and including expulsion. You don't have to accept your instructor's decisions, though. You have the right to protest the allegation, the sanction, or both to the Dean's Office. You must do so within five days of receiving the AIAF. Once the Dean's Office receives your request, the Dean convenes an Academic Integrity Committee made up of between three and six faculty members. These members review your documentation and make a final determination as to whether or not to uphold the instructor's original decisions. You have the right to attend any committee hearings and to bring an advisor with you. In addition, this advisor can be an attorney.
  • Get Help You should always fight to protect your academic reputation, but there's no getting around it: that can be a difficult fight. It takes persistence and hard work. Here's the good news: you don't have to do it alone. St. Cloud gives you the right to an attorney, and you should absolutely take advantage of this right. An attorney who understands the system and who has experience representing student clients will give you the very best chance of success. 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.

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