Colleges and universities take academic integrity very seriously. You can understand why. Leaving aside any platitudes about the value of hard work and honesty, you'll have trouble finding a job if your degree is from a school with a reputation for cheating.
That doesn't mean, though, that schools don't sometimes go too far when it comes to identifying and punishing misconduct. Faculty do develop itchy trigger fingers, and sanctions these days are often far out of proportion to offenses.
What do you do if you suddenly find yourself accused? First, you find out all you can about how your school deals with academic misconduct allegations. What are the rules? How are they enforced? What options are open to you when it comes to defending yourself? Then, you find an attorney to serve as your advisor. Because you should never simply accept an allegation without a fight, you should never try to take on that fight all by yourself.
Academic Misconduct at SCAD
If you've been charged with academic dishonesty, your first job should be to find out all you can about the charges. Building a strong defense requires that you know exactly what you've been accused of doing.
The Savannah College of Art and Design bills itself as “The University for Creative Careers.” It's a unique educational program, and its policy on academic integrity is unique as well. Of course, like most schools, SCAD prohibits both cheating and plagiarism.
- Cheating: In broad terms, cheating involves the use of unauthorized resources in completing course work. In this definition, “unauthorized resources” can mean anything from asking another student to take an exam for you to using your book during a closed-book quiz. From Google to crib sheets, if the answers don't come from your brain and you don't have express permission to use the resource you're using, you're probably guilty of cheating.
- Plagiarism: Plagiarism means representing or attempting to represent another person's work or ideas as your own without giving them due credit. SCAD is careful to point out this includes purchasing papers from online paper mills. You should also note that it doesn't just refer to text. You can be accused of plagiarizing computer code, music, and, of course, images and video.
Given the school's emphasis on creativity, it should come as no surprise that SCAD adds two further prohibitions to its list of violations.
- Multiple submissions: You are specifically forbidden to turn the same work into more than one course without prior permission. Obviously, this forces you to complete original work in every class.
- Submission of work you didn't actually produce: This would seem to be covered under plagiarism, but at a university where creativity is at a premium, SCAD wants to make absolutely sure you understand that your work must be your work.
Judicial Procedures at SCAD
Once you're clear on the charges against you, your next job should be to learn how the judicial process at your school works. That means finding out who can accuse you, how you go about defending yourself, and what kinds of sanctions you might be facing. SCAD describes its procedures in terse terms, suggesting it takes infractions seriously but also that it can be hard for students to challenge the system.
Faculty have primary responsibility for identifying policy violations. The school is clear about what happens from this point: The instructor notifies the student of the accusation and emails evidence and documentation to the school's Academic Dishonesty Office.
At SCAD, there is no negotiating with your professor or explaining your side of the situation. Instead, the Academic Dishonesty Office assigns an administrator to investigate the allegation. If this official determines you are guilty of misconduct, you're issued an F for the course in question. Again, there are no options for negotiating a lesser sanction, such as makeup work or a lower grade on the assignment. In fact, if you have a record of previous violations, you'll likely be suspended or expelled.
SCAD does provide a process for appealing a guilty verdict. This involves emailing the Academic Appeals Office within five days of receiving written notice of the finding against you. The school then convenes an appeals committee to “review the case.” However, you are not entitled to speak directly to this committee or to present your arguments and evidence in person.
How Joseph D. Lento Can Help
Students are often reticent to challenge their instructors' decisions or question the fairness of an academic sanction. Reading through SCAD's policy, you can understand why. Students seem to have few rights in the judicial process, and there seems to be no room for negotiation. Even innocent students sometimes just accept their punishment and move on rather than take on the hassle. They don't bother to defend themselves, and they certainly don't bother hiring an attorney.
That's always a mistake. SCAD's punishments for academic dishonesty are especially draconian. Few schools simply issue failing grades for any—even the smallest—infractions. Leaving aside the fact that you'll have to retake a course, though, and the time and money that will require, your record will now reflect that you've cheated. That can cost you scholarships. It can interfere with internship and graduate school applications. It can even prevent you from getting a good job out of school.
It's true that an attorney can't represent you at a hearing since SCAD doesn't allow you to defend yourself at a hearing. Attorneys do far more than make arguments in court, though. An attorney-advisor can advise you on strategy. They can help you gather evidence and draft appeals documents. Most important of all, they can make sure your rights aren't violated. Defending yourself to your university is never easy, and it's particularly difficult at SCAD. You need all the help you can get if you want to salvage your future.
Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in advising student clients. In other words, 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.