Higher education can set you up for a bright future. Companies are eager to hire new graduates full of fresh knowledge, but they must rely on a candidate's educational tenure to verify work ethic and integrity.
Honors, grades, extra-curricular activities, and more—these can be scrutinized by potential employers. If all is well, you may receive a great job offer that will lead to a successful and fulfilling career.
But what if your college track record isn't as straightforward? What if, for example, you have a history of academic misconduct? Your future may look entirely different.
What is Academic Misconduct?
Academic misconduct generally refers to any action that is dishonest or lacks integrity as it relates to school activities, especially when it creates an unearned academic advantage.
Your actions as an undergrad can affect your career, especially if you are held responsible for misconduct. For the sake of your future, academic dishonesty should be taken very seriously. The first step is understanding your school's policies. The second is securing an experienced attorney-advisor if you are ever accused of misconduct.
If you are a student or the parent of a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, read on to learn more about UNL's policies, procedures, and standards.
Academic Misconduct at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, like other schools, publishes a complete student code of conduct. The first item in the code? Academic integrity. This section is straightforward. UNL lists a total of five different types of academic misconduct, and for the most part, the list includes all the behaviors you would expect:
- Cheating: In simplest terms, cheating refers to the unauthorized use of outside materials to help you complete an assignment. "Outside materials" might include the copy of the exam you stole from the professor's office, a website you used to help you complete your homework, or your roommate who you paid to write your final paper. If it involves something other than your own brain, and the instructor didn't specifically tell you you could use it, you're most likely cheating.
- Dishonesty: Many of the specific examples the school lists have to do with plagiarism. However, dishonesty also includes inventing sources, falsifying lab results, even something as simple as forging a doctor's note in order to avoid taking an exam.
- Harming Other Students' Academic Progress: This could involve anything from tampering with someone else's research to falsely accusing others of academic misconduct.
- Improperly Helping: Generally speaking, if you helped someone else to commit academic misconduct, UNL believes you are just as guilty as the person you helped.
- Breaking Rules: This last item on the list works as a kind of catch-all. It's a reminder that any rule listed on a syllabus, even if it isn't covered directly in the student code of conduct, still qualifies as academic misconduct.
In fact, UNL goes on to note that this list "is not exhaustive and does not reflect all conduct that may be in violation of the Code.” In short, rather than consult this list, it's better to think of academic misconduct as anything that could potentially give you an unfair advantage in your coursework.
In addition, it's worth remembering that UNL's misconduct policies don't just apply to individuals but to organizations such as fraternities, sororities, and student clubs. For example, if your pre-law society maintains a file full of political science final exams, all of you could be charged with academic misconduct.
Finally, unlike some other kinds of misconduct, when it comes to violating academic integrity it doesn't matter where you do it. On campus or off, cheating is still cheating.
Academic Misconduct Proceedings at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
If UNL suspects or is notified that you have breached their code of conduct, a Conduct Officer will investigate.
At the end of their investigation, they may either: take no further action (if they cannot substantiate the misconduct claims), seek administrative action, or request a hearing.
For an administrative resolution, you must either accept responsibility for the misconduct or refuse responsibility but accept the resolution. Alternatively, you may request a hearing.
Hearings take place before a Hearing Officer or a University Conduct Board (when suspension or expulsion are under consideration). UNL must notify you of the upcoming hearing at least five days prior.
The hearing will include two stages — one to determine if you are responsible for the violation and another to determine resolution (only if you are found responsible). During the first stage, you and the Conduct Officer will be able to present arguments and evidence. The Conduct Officer bears the burden of proving “the alleged violation(s) more likely true than not true.”
You must be informed of the results within one week of the hearing's close.
Appeals and Re-Hearings
In some cases, you have the right to appeal the hearing results if you request the appeal within ten days. These cases include:
- The evidence during the hearing was insufficient and did not prove the charges were “more likely true than not”
- Disciplinary action was excessive compared to the conduct
- University misconduct procedure was not followed
However, if you or the Conduct Officer discover new evidence, you may be entitled to a new hearing altogether if the evidence:
- Is new
- Wasn't discoverable with proper due diligence for the first hearing
- Could reasonably change the outcome of a new hearing
The university's decision to grant appeals and re-hearings is considered final.
Your Right to an Attorney-Advisor
During academic dishonesty hearings, you have the right to an advisor or legal attorney. While they can't speak on your behalf during the hearing, they are allowed to attend and provide advice. You may consult with them throughout the hearing.
With so much at stake, it is in your best interests to consult with an attorney-advisor during academic misconduct hearings.
The Lento Law Firm is On Your Side
Student misconduct allegations should never be taken lightly — nor should you accept responsibility without understanding the repercussions. You may face loss of privileges, removal from university housing, suspension, or expulsion.
Even worse, the misconduct will be on your academic record, potentially affecting your career post-university.
Your future is on the line — Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento can help. Offering years of experience in student defense, Attorney Lento can help you navigate your school's misconduct proceedings and offer a strong defense.
Contact the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686 or filling out the online form.