Case Studies: International Student Defense

Korean Students Successfully Defend Unauthorized Collaboration Charges

An urban campus of a large university system on the West Coast charged several Korean students with unauthorized collaboration and other forms of academic misconduct. The charges could have resulted in the students' dismissal, which could further have resulted in the students' loss of student visas and deportation back to their home country. Two of the students retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team as soon as they received notice of the charges. We interviewed the students closely, learning of their study practices, the practices they had followed in their home country studies, and any conditions their instructors at the university had placed on their studies. Our team also researched the university's student code of conduct, code of academic integrity, syllabi, and other course materials. We put together a presentation for the students to make with our assistance at the upcoming formal hearing, showing that the students had simply studied as they had learned to study in their home country and as their current university's policies appeared to permit, if not encourage. Our presentation also showed what the university's instructors should have put in their syllabi or other course instructions if, for some reason, they wished to curtail our clients' sound collaborative study practices. We also provided a summary of our clients' presentations to disciplinary officials before the hearing to ensure that the hearing panel wasn't surprised at the nature and content of our clients' defense. Just before the hearing, the university's general counsel contacted us, indicating that the university was dismissing all charges against our two clients. Thorough investigation and a presentation showing the full context were the keys to the winning defense.

Central American Student Avoids University Dismissal Over Sexual Misconduct Allegations

A public university in the Central Plains states charged our client, the son of a Central American businessman, with non-Title IX sexual misconduct after our client flirted with, touched, and attempted to kiss several female students at an on-campus party. The charges occurred early in the student's first term before the student had adjusted to the cultural norms and practices of the university's students. The charges could have resulted in our client's dismissal from the university, loss of his student visa, and deportation back to his home country. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team at first notice of the charges, giving us the full opportunity for a thorough investigation. Our investigation included private interviews and statements from several witnesses at the party, including some of the complainants. We also communicated promptly with university disciplinary officials and other school officials, sharing witness statements, evidence summaries, and presentations. Our presentations showed that our client's conduct comported with normal behaviors among students of our client's profile and the profiles of the complaining witnesses in his home country. Our presentation convinced the investigating official to conduct an informal resolution conference. We were able to help our client prepare for the informal conference so that he understood its goal and parameters and made his best effort to resolve the matter. At the conference, the complaining witnesses accepted our client's explanation, apology, and agreement to attend cultural sensitivity training, as the investigating official recommended to the complaining students. The university dropped all charges, clearing our client's record and enabling him to continue with his education on good terms and in good standing.

International Student Overcomes Behavioral Misconduct Charges Relating to Alleged Alcohol Abuse

A large and prominent private university along the West Coast charged our client, an international student who had only recently entered the U.S. alone and apart from friends and family, with alcohol possession, use, and abuse on campus. The university had a no-alcohol policy, although our investigation showed that the university's enforcement of that policy was lax or at most uncertain. Our client's family urged our client to retain the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, especially given our client's limited oral English language skills and limited social skills within American culture. Our investigation showed that our client had consumed only a small quantity of alcohol off campus but, unfamiliar with its effects, had reacted as if having imbibed substantial qualities. Our client's limited knowledge of social interactions in the U.S. exacerbated student confusion over our client's uncharacteristic actions. The university's investigator disclosed to our team in communications and informal video conferences that the university had no choice but to pursue charges because our client's actions had frightened students. We were able to provide the investigator with the full context, including that our client had never before consumed alcohol until this off-campus incident and was mistaken as to its consumption and effects. The student dean reviewing the investigation report determined to dismiss the charges, in part because our client had by then gained greater trust and confidence among his new classmates. Our defense strategy had included pacing the disciplinary proceedings as long as our client appeared to be adjusting to his new surroundings and finding a new supporting community. Pressing for swift resolution is not always the best strategy.

African International Student Successfully Avoids Academic Misconduct and Academic Progress Dismissal

A professional program associated with a public research university located in the Great Lakes region charged our client, an African national qualifying for future naturalization and citizenship in the U.S., with both unsatisfactory academic progress and academic misconduct charges. The unsatisfactory academic progress had to do with our client's course withdrawals and incompletes relating to our client's difficult pregnancy and child delivery. Our client, whose African parents were both college professors, had no concern that she could, in time, overcome her SAP probation now that she had delivered her child, although she needed to complete her SAP appeal to ensure a good opportunity to raise her grades and complete her courses. Our client was more concerned with the academic misconduct charges, which she did not understand from the limited information the university's disciplinary notice had shared. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we promptly answered the misconduct charges requesting a more definite statement of the charges. Our research showed that both state law and university policy assured students facing discipline that their school would provide a detailed account of the factual basis for the charges. Our request caused the university's disciplinary officials to write a clarification of the charges that gave our client enough information to readily refute the charges. We helped our client prepare both the SAP appeal and a response and presentation against the misconduct charges. The university granted the SAP appeal on the obvious grounds of our client's pregnancy and delivery. The university also dismissed the misconduct charges at an informal conference at which the student dean fully acknowledged the sufficiency of our client's explanation. Our client continued her education with a clear record.

International Student of Middle Eastern Descent Successfully Gains Reinstatement After Dismissal for Alleged False Application Information

A small state university in a Gulf Coast state dismissed our client for allegedly falsifying information on his university application for admission. Our client was an international student from Syria seeking asylum as a refugee. Our client had served as a translator for U.S. military members and entered the U.S. with military assistance in exchange for his service. Our client had substantial Syrian schooling, including some equivalent to the U.S. college or university level. But our client was uncertain how to represent his foreign schooling on the state university's admissions application. Delays in our student's ability to obtain documentation of his Syrian education through the U.S. consulate and his foreign contacts led the state university to question and then reject his application and revoke his admission after his initial matriculation. Our client had already completed his first semester and was well into his second semester, with adequate academic performance. The state university's dismissal notice offered our client an appeal to the university's admissions committee that had already decided to revoke our client's admissions. We successfully elevated our client's appeal to the next level, which was the university provost's designee. Our thorough presentation of our client's extraordinary service and unusual predicament convinced the provost's designee to reverse the admissions committee and reinstate our client, especially after several committee members urged the reversal on the presentation we had prepared and provided. Our client continued with his university education without further challenge to his admissions status.

Canadian Student Successfully Appeals Behavioral Dismissal Relating to Disorderly Conduct Charges

A small private college in a Great Lakes state dismissed our client, a Canadian citizen in the U.S. solely for higher education, relating to a misdemeanor criminal charge our client faced alleging our client's drunken and disorderly conduct. Local police had arrested and charged several students celebrating a football team victory with obnoxious and arguably offensive but otherwise harmless displays of excessive school spirit. The local prosecutor had already dismissed the charges against several of the students but not our client, by the time our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. The criminal court had simply not yet scheduled our client's preliminary exam, when the prosecutor would presumably have recommended dismissal on various conditions and assurances, in large part because of our client's foreign national status. In the meantime, the college dismissed our client over the still-pending misdemeanor criminal charges, without offering a conference or hearing. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we promptly challenged the college's dismissal as a violation of our student's contractual and common law due process rights. We simultaneously communicated with the college's general counsel, with whom we clarified the status of the criminal proceeding. The general counsel recommended dismissal of the disciplinary case and reinstatement of our client after conferring with the local prosecutor. We were able to ensure that our client's school records contained no remaining allegation of wrongdoing. Our client also avoided any threat to his student visa status.

South American Graduate Student in Economics Avoids Dismissal on Charges of Violating University Rules

A large private research university in the Northeastern United States charged a Brazilian graduate student attending the university's school of economics on an F-1 student visa with violating university rules. When the graduate student retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, our answer and request for a more specific statement of the charges revealed that the economics school's disciplinary officials believed that our client had misused his student library privileges to access secure private collections. The specification of charges further alleged that our client had removed private collections materials to show to students and, in one case, a member of the economics school's faculty. Once our client understood the nature and detail of the charges, our client helped us prepare for the disciplinary official's interview of our client in an informal resolution conference. With our advice and assistance, our client was able to explain and document his special research interest in economics that had spurred his international matriculation at the school. Our client had reasonably believed that he had the right to access the special collection, which included materials relevant to his special research interest. Our client was able to show that our client had, in fact, used those materials in drafts of papers he was planning to submit as coursework and for later publication. Our client further showed that while he had removed some of the materials, he had done so without violating any specific collection rule and only to copy the materials for citation and to show them to other interested persons, including the lone faculty member. Our client's explanation and documentation resulted in the disciplinary official's dismissal of all charges.

Colombian Student Avoids Discipline Over Alleged Violation of Private College's Anti-Smoking Policy

A small private college in a Central Atlantic state charged our client with violating the college's anti-smoking policy. Our client, a Colombian student from a family of large landowners, was attending the college on a student visa. While the smoking charge was a relatively minor matter that would not likely have led to our client's suspension or dismissal, our client's father and other family members urged our client to retain the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to preserve our client's clean record, related to our client's future political ambitions. Our investigation confirmed that our client was not actually smoking tobacco but instead vaping a fruit-flavored, nicotine-supplemented liquid. Our research of the college's anti-smoking policy, which our client had read before the disciplinary charge, showed that the policy did not specifically prohibit our client's conduct. Indeed, our client had politely disagreed with a college staff member's warning not to vape, leading to the disciplinary charge. We nonetheless prepared our client for the informal hearing on the charge before the college's disciplinary official not merely to contest the college's interpretation of its vague anti-smoking policy but also to help our client acknowledge that he had a nicotine addiction that he needed to address. Our client had stopped vaping as soon as receiving the charge and, at our urging, documented his efforts to get professional help with his nicotine addiction. The college's disciplinary official agreed to dismiss the charge on the condition that our client discontinue his on-campus vaping, which our client had already done and wished in the future to do.

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