College isn't like it used to be. There was a time when, if you were caught cheating, the worst you might face was a stern lecture from your professor. Not anymore. The slightest slip-up these days can lead to a course failure or something even worse, like dismissal from your school.
Here's the thing, though, colleges and universities can and do get things wrong sometimes. Innocent students do wind up accused of things they didn't do. Simple honest mistakes get treated as serious ethical breaches. Schools assign sanctions all out of proportion to offenses. What do you do if you're facing an unfounded accusation or an unfair disciplinary penalty?
First, you find out all you can about how your institution treats academic misconduct. You need to know the rules, and you need to know how the school responds to accusations. Only when you know what you're up against will you have any chance of successfully defending yourself. Second, you find a qualified, experienced lawyer who can help you respond to the charges. Taking on your university is no easy task. You can do it, and you can succeed, but you're going to need help.
Defining Academic Misconduct at Texas Women's University
In a general sense, academic misconduct refers to any activity that could give you an unfair advantage in completing your coursework or obtaining your degree. Texas Women's University goes beyond this broad principle, though, and identifies seven specific kinds of violations.
- Cheating: In the strictest sense of the word, cheating means giving or receiving “unauthorized aid” to complete exams, papers, or other assignments. Asking someone to take an exam for you would certainly qualify. So too, though, would asking someone in another section to tell you what's on the exam before you have to take it.
- Collusion: By “collusion,” TWU seems to mean “collaboration.” That is, you're not allowed to get outside help on assignments. However, the school's policy is careful to exempt “authorized” resources such as writing center tutors and librarians.
- Fabrication: In simplest terms, you are prohibited from inventing sources or making up lab results.
- Facilitating academic dishonesty: Texas Women's treats the act of helping someone else commit misconduct is its own form of misconduct.
- Falsification: Falsification involves the “manipulation” of materials in order to “misrepresent” procedures or results. The term might be stretched, though, to include less serious actions like forging a doctor's note to get out of an exam.
- Multiple submission: Unless you're specifically authorized, you may not turn in the same course work in two separate classes.
- Plagiarism: Finally, as you might expect, Texas Women's University also lists plagiarism as a form of academic misconduct. You aren't allowed to pass another person's work off as your own. Importantly, TWU notes that plagiarism can be “intentional or unintentional.” This suggests that you could be accused of misconduct simply for citing a source incorrectly.
You should also be aware that TWU's policy clearly states that ignorance of the rules is not an excuse for breaking them. In fact, the university reserves the right to change the rules at will and expects you to keep up to date when it does.
Processes and Procedures at Texas Women's University
Primary responsibility for identifying and punishing academic misconduct at Texas Women's University rests in the hands of instructors. However, the school also provides an extensive set of guidelines for just how instructors should go about this process.
Violations are divided into four separate categories, each one with its own recommended sanctions.
- Level One: Usually unintentional and the result of inexperience, TWU advises faculty to deal with these violations as “teaching opportunities,” with no sanction beyond a conference or a re-write of the assignment.
- Level Two: These violations are more deliberate and affect a larger portion of an assignment. TWU recommends faculty reduce offenders' grades by one level or, in the most serious cases, fail the student entirely.
- Level Three: This level involves premeditation and/or dishonesty that affects a significant portion of a student's work over the course of a semester. Offenses are typically punished with suspension.
- Level Four: Finally, level four refers to offenses that represent a “serious breach” of “intellectual honesty,” such as stealing an exam from a professor's office. The penalty for level four violations is expulsion.
It's worth noting that TWU requires instructors to report all incidents of dishonesty to the Office of Civility and Community Standards (OCCS). In addition, repeat Level Two offenses are automatically treated as Level Three or Level Four offenses.
The Student Code of Conduct outlines the process for challenging an accusation of misconduct, which basically consists of an investigation by the OCCS followed by a formal or informal hearing. Curiously, this document makes no mention of how students might go about questioning the severity of a sanction. This suggests it might be difficult to do so.
Joseph D. Lento, Academic Misconduct Attorney-Advisor
A lot can go wrong when schools maintain policies as complex as Texas Women's University's policy towards academic dishonesty. Faculty can abuse the system or just plain get things wrong. More importantly, students can have trouble getting justice when judicial procedures are confusing and unclear.
That doesn't mean you have to accept a false allegation or an unfair sanction. You have the right to challenge your instructor and, if necessary, the school itself.
Let Joseph D. Lento help with that process. Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in advising student clients. He understands how difficult it can sometimes be to get justice from a faculty member or an administrative official. Schools just don't like to admit they're wrong, and they'll do almost anything to back up their faculty. Joseph D. Lento has dedicated his entire career to defending student rights. He's helped hundreds of clients defend themselves from charges big and small, and he can help you get the justice you deserve.
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.