Centenary University is a small and private liberal arts college associated with the United Methodist Church. Located in Hackettstown, New Jersey, Centenary University has a student body of approximately 1,100 undergraduates.
Like all accredited colleges and universities in the United States, Centenary University takes instances of academic dishonesty and misconduct very seriously. The school reserves the right to suspend or even expel students who violate its Academic Code, making it crucially important for students at the Centenary University to know and understand what the Code requires and how it goes about investigating and sanctioning potential violations. Having a lawyer on your side if you have been accused of violating the Code can make a huge difference not just in your time at the Centenary University, but also in your first steps into the professional world—a conviction for academic dishonesty can put a strong blemish on your academic record that potential employers look down upon.
Centenary University's Academic Code
Despite referring to it in many of its catalogs and other official publications, Centenary University does not publish its Academic Code in a separate document or in its entirety in a given place online. Instead, sections of it appear in numerous online documents:
- The Undergraduate Catalog,
- The Faculty Handbook,
- The Student Life Handbook, and
- A listing of University Syllabi Statements.
Centenary University is unusual in that it gives faculty members wide latitude to define, investigate, and determine academic violations according to rules they write into their course syllabi. Faculty members are also given significant discretion in their decisions to sanction a student.
Granting faculty members such discretion, however, often results in unfair results to students who receive harsher punishments than others for the same offense, simply because it was a different faculty member investigating their case. When there are no rules in place to prevent this from happening, students being charged with academic misconduct at Centenary University can benefit from the representation of an attorney.
Investigation by Faculty Member
When a faculty member suspects that one of their students has violated the Academic Code, they can investigate the instance in the way they think fit for the occasion. This means students who are suspected of committing academic dishonesty are not guaranteed an opportunity to present their side of the story, defend against the allegation, or even be notified that their instructor thinks they violated the Code. Centenary University students can be under investigation for an instance of academic dishonesty and not know it, and can even be found guilty of that charge without being notified.
Instead, the only thing that faculty members have to do is fill out an Academic Code of Conduct Violation form and send it to the Director of Academic Success and Advising Center. This form lists the instance of academic misconduct, and the sanction being given to the student.
Only then does the Director of Academic Success and Advising Center notify the student of the infraction.
If the infraction is not a student's first, it will trigger a hearing with the Academic Review Board. The Board can also be called to a hearing if either the faculty member or the Director of Academic Success and Advising Center recommends a sanction that goes beyond failing the student for the course in which the incident occurred. The student being sanctioned can also appeal their sanction to the Review Board, as well.
The Academic Review Board
The Academic Review Board is a standing committee that is filled with members of Centenary University's faculty and staff, including:
- The Chief Academic Officer
- The Chief Student Services Officer
- The Dean of Academic Support
- The Registrar
- An administrative member of the Adult and Professional Programs
- Three faculty members
The Board is tasked with hearing academic disputes and a host of other issues, in addition to claims of academic dishonesty and appeals of infractions of the school's Academic Code. However, the procedures that the Board is to follow for appeals of academic dishonesty cases do not appear in any official Centenary University publication. This is in spite of the fact that the Faculty Handbook's claims that the “hearing procedures to be followed by the Academic Review Board shall be found in both the Student Handbook and the Faculty Handbook.” The only procedures that apply to the Academic Review Board are outlined in the Faculty Handbook. However, these procedures only apply to:
- Attendance appeals
- Appeals of grades that misapply or arbitrarily apply the instructor's or college's grading policy
- Reviews of the progress of students on academic probation
- Appeals from the Academic Review Board
Appealing from a Decision by the Academic Review Board
Students who have been expelled for violating the Academic Code for an instance or for repeated instances of academic misconduct or dishonesty can appeal the Board's decision.
Students, as well as the person they choose to act as their advisor for the appeals hearing, are notified of the date, time, and place of the appeals hearing. At the hearing, the student can testify and call on others to testify on his or her behalf. The Board can question any person that testifies at the hearing and can call in others who have information that is relevant to the appeal. The Board then makes its decision in an executive session. This decision is final and binding.
New Jersey Academic Dishonesty Attorney Joseph D. Lento
When the procedures for investigating and punishing students for allegedly violating its Academic Code are as lax and vague as Centenary University's, the result is predictable: Innocent students getting accused of doing something that they did not do. Unfortunately, this can have lasting repercussions on the student being wrongfully accused. Not only can it ruin your college experience, it can also tarnish your academic record in a way that can make potential employers in the future doubt your ability to add to their workplace.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento fights for the rights of students in New Jersey and at Centenary University. Contact him online for the legal help you need if you are being accused of committing academic misconduct.