Academic misconduct occurs when a student fails to comply with the academic regulations implemented by a school. Bryn Mawr College, much like other academic institutions, values academic integrity and expects each and every member of the community to preserve it on campus. Each case is carefully assessed, and met with corrective actions if it is determined that a violation did, in fact, occur.
If you a Bryn Mawr student who has been accused of academic misconduct, you need to be aware of all the process you're required to undergo and all of your options. You should also consider receiving the help of a student defense attorney to ensure your rights are protected in a system that was essentially designed to slight you. For the purposes of this article, I will provide a comprehensive overview of your school's academic misconduct disciplinary procedures.
Bryn Mawr College's “Honor Code”
Bryn Mawr's Honor Code assumes that students are trustworthy, and that they exhibit integrity when it comes to all academic works. This assumption provides attendees of the college with a number of privileges, including take-home and self-scheduled exams. However, with such privileges comes with enormous responsibility. The code proceeds to mention that breaching academic integrity when students aren't closely monitored is easy, while working honestly at all times without much monitoring is difficult.
It's important that students accused of academic misconduct understand that their charges will be based on what they submitted, not what they intended to submit. All too often, students bearing these allegations are misinformed as to what they did wrong and made a genuine mistake. The unfortunate reality about these situations is that the school does not consider your intentions when determining a violation. School officials simply evaluate what has been turned in, and if it constitutes as a breach of academic integrity. With that in mind, don't expect the school to sympathize with you for making a mistake. It's important to stress that your actions weren't intentional, but it may not make a difference in the outcome of your case.
If any member of the college community suspects that the actions of a student are not consistent with the honor code, he or she is encouraged to confidentially consult with the suspected student first. Typically, instructors occupy the role of a confronting party. The objective of this meeting is for the person to either affirm or discount their suspicions of a violation. If the confronting party walks away from a meeting feeling as if a violation has not occurred, no further action will be taken. However, if, after a conversation, the confronting party still believes that there was a violation, he or she will ask the student to report themselves (in writing) to the Honor Board. If the student refuses to do so, an instructor will be responsible for reporting the possible infraction and the student who allegedly committed it to the Head of the Honor Board. This also should be submitted in writing.
If a student agrees to write a letter to the board, he or she must write a letter conveying their side of the story. This is a chance for a student to provide evidence of the thoughtwork and authentic measures they used to complete their work. Talking about the drafting process of an essay or assignment and listing the sources that you used could help clear up any misunderstandings or misperceptions when it comes to academic misconduct. In situations involving pretty unsubstantiated predicaments when students are accused of cheating during a test, you can highlight previous scuffles or disagreements you've had with an instructor, and why he or she could be biased or you can be disadvantaged.
After both accounts are assessed, the Head of the Honor Board and the Dean of the Undergraduate College will determine if a hearing is necessary. These parties will also decide to whom the matter will be referred for mitigation.
If you reach this phase of the process, it is assumed that an Honor Board found it necessary to listen to a more in-depth account of what occurred. Hearings at Bryn Mawr are informal, and are intended to permit objective parties to make a decision regarding an academic misconduct conflict. Both statements from a confronting party and student in question will be read, along with the evidence each party has collected to back their case. The Honor Board may even find it necessary to call expert witnesses to testify about the materials presented. After each side has been heard, the board will make a final decision. If a student is found “not responsible” for violating school policy, all charges will be dismissed. However, if a determination results in a “responsible” charge, the board will imposed recommended sanctions.
Receiving a guilty determination for academic misconduct is discouraging for respondents. Students who believe that they were falsely accused may feel as if their school has slighted them, and that a hearing did not uncover the truth as it is intended to do. If you feel this way after a determination, you should utilize your right to appeal. An appeal is a request to your school to reconsider a prior decision. However, this request must have substantiated proof that you were treated unfairly, or the circumstances were unfair in the midst of your school's processes. These reasons are referred to as “reasonable grounds.” The grounds for granted appeals are limited, and are as follows:
- There was new evidence that was not made available at the time of a hearing that could have substantially impacted the determination and/or sanction
- There were procedural errors that significantly impacted the fairness of a determination and/or sanction
- The imposed sanction(s) were grossly disproportionate to the violation committed
An appeal must be submitted in writing to the President of the College within one week of the conclusion of the hearing. Based on this appeal, the President has the authority to uphold the decision made by the Honor Board, reverse this decision, or call for an entirely new hearing. Decisions that involve suspension or expulsion will be automatically appealed.
Pennsylvania Student Defense Attorney
Academic misconduct allegations are a big deal. If this isn't your first time acquiring these charges, or you have been accused of relatively serious actions, retaining a student defense attorney is a must. The repercussions for academic misconduct in these circumstances are dire and can compromise all of the hard work you've put into your studies here at Bryn Mawr.
Joseph D. Lento is a legal professional who has dedicated his whole career to people who have been in your shoes. He's helped them prevail in academic misconduct proceedings, from investigation through hearing to appeal, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today for help.