College is stressful enough as it is. In between dealing with your strange new roommate, worrying how to keep the freshman fifteen at bay, and learning to separate your colors from your whites, you don't have time to deal with an academic misconduct accusation too.
So, you're careful. You make sure to keep your eyes on your own paper at all times, and your works-cited pages are works of art. That may not be enough to keep you from being accused, though. The rules are complicated. Everyone makes mistakes. Professors sometimes have itchy trigger fingers.
What do you do if it happens to you?
You start by finding out everything you can about how your university deals with these cases. What are the rules? What happens if you break one? How do you go about defending yourself? Then, you make sure you have a seasoned attorney-advisor at your side—someone with experience representing student clients and with expertise in handling faculty and administrators. Knowledge is power, and it can get you a long way, but you're going to need help if you're planning to challenge your school.
Defining the Rules
Your defense starts with knowing your school's rules. You can't hope to properly prove your innocence unless you understand exactly what you've been accused of doing.
The University of Dayton's Honor Code lists seven specific types of misconduct to avoid.
- Cheating: In simple terms, cheating refers to the use of any unauthorized resource in completing your coursework. That can mean anything from texting your roommate for answers during an exam to asking your roommate to take the exam for you. In addition, as with all of these categories, the University of Dayton takes the time to point out that aiding and abetting misconduct is its own form of misconduct.
- Plagiarism: The attempt to claim another person's words or ideas as your own. Typically, we think of plagiarism in terms of text, but it applies just as much to images, video, music, art, and even computer code. In fact, many professors these days will charge you with a violation simply for grabbing a cool photo online and dropping it into your PowerPoint presentation.
- Submitting the same work in multiple courses: This means what it says. Unless you have permission, you can't turn the same work in to two different professors.
- Submitting false data: Obviously, you aren't supposed to fabricate results from a lab experiment you never actually conducted. You can be accused for much lesser offenses, too, though. For instance, signing a classmate's name to the daily attendance log would qualify as “submitting false data.”
- Altering your grade: Whether you're doing it through high-tech means, like using state-of-the-art hacking software, or doing it the old-fashioned way, by stealing your instructor's grade book, changing your score on coursework is expressly forbidden.
- Abuse of library privileges: You're not supposed to damage or, in any other way, prevent others from using the school's academic materials.
- Tolerance of dishonesty: Aiding and abetting others is misconduct, but so too is simply ignoring misconduct you might know about.
Finally, it's worth noting that this list is “non-exhaustive.” That is, the University of Dayton wants you to know that it can charge you with misconduct for anything it decides gives you an unfair advantage in completing your coursework. This is one reason why it's so important to have an attorney-advisor at your side: it's no easy task to defend yourself when your school has the right to make up the rules as it goes along.
Processes and Penalties
In addition to knowing the rules at your school, building a proper defense requires that you have a working understanding of the judicial procedures.
As at most schools, the University of Dayton faculty have primary authority for identifying and punishing instances of academic misconduct. This does not give them carte blanche. For instance, they are required to provide you with notice of your offense, to furnish you with an Honor Code Violation Incident Report, and to meet with you to hear your side of the situation. Ultimately, however, they decide whether or not you are responsible for a violation and can punish you with anything up to a failure in the course. Sanctions typically include:
- Verbal or written warning
- Makeup work or re-submission of assignment
- Assignment on the nature of academic integrity
- Lowered grade on the assignment, up to a zero
- Lowered grade on the course, up to an F
Note: All faculty are required to submit an incident report to the student's Dean. This official keeps a record of all infractions and punishes further offenses with more severe sanctions, including probation, suspension, and expulsion.
You do have the right to dispute your instructor's findings or the sanction they've set. The appeals process basically follows the school's administrative chain of command. So, for example, your first appeal is filed with the chair of the department that offers the course. Should you wish to appeal the chair's decision, you can do so to the department's misconduct review committee. That committee's decisions can be further appealed to the Dean's office. All of these appeals are in writing. At no time does the school allow you to defend yourself in person at a formal hearing.
Finally, if you are subject to an extra-course sanction from the Dean's office, you can appeal that sanction directly to the school's Provost. Here again, the final decision is based solely on documentary evidence.
Joseph D. Lento: Academic Misconduct Attorney
Students often simply accept charges of misconduct and the penalties that go with them rather than go through the lengthy and complex process of filing an appeal. After all, it takes time and energy to appeal, and there's no guarantee that you'll be successful.
Ultimately, though, you should always challenge your instructors' decisions. Here's why. Even if you're just facing a warning, that sanction can have long-term repercussions on your academic and professional futures. If a notation about the warning should show up in your permanent record, it could impact your scholarships, keep you from getting into graduate school, and even cause problems with job applications. Of course, if you should be facing a more serious sanction, like course failure or suspension, the impact could be even greater.
And here's the thing: you don't have to take on your school by yourself.
Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who has vast experience in academic misconduct and education cases. Whether you're simply meeting with a professor to discuss their accusation or going before the Dean to prove your innocence, Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento has handled hundreds of cases just like yours. He's a skilled negotiator and a tenacious fighter. Don't let your school trample your rights or impose penalties far out of proportion to your offense. If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct, contact the Lento Law Firm today.
Call 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.