College Academic Integrity Defense at University of Alabama-Birmingham

The University of Alabama-Birmingham, founded in 1969, is a public university in Alabama and was ranked among the top 10% of universities worldwide in the U.S. News & World Report 2022 “Best Global Universities” list. The school was initially founded as an academic extension center in 1936 and traces its roots (through predecessor institutions) back to 1831 when the state legislature created the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. With such a rich and storied legacy, it should be no surprise that UAB highly values academic integrity. In fact, the school updated its Academic Integrity Code as of Aug 2021 (formerly known as the UAB Academic Honor Code) in an attempt to better integrate students into the academic misconduct process and offer due process to students, as well as a desire to unify approach across schools. Let's take a deeper look into their policy.

How Does UAB Define Academic Misconduct?

In the updated policy, UAB defines academic misconduct most simply as “any act of dishonesty” connected to any academic-related situation or circumstance. More specifically, they include (but do not limit it to) cheating, facilitation, plagiarism (including self-plagiarism), fabrication, and falsification or misrepresentation. All of these behaviors are considered academic misconduct whether you undertake them for yourself or are aware of or assist another in the behavior.

What Is the Resolution Process at UAB for Academic Dishonesty?

In this section, we'll take a look at an overview of UAB's disciplinary/resolution procedures for academic misconduct. For a more comprehensive and detailed explanation, be sure to spend some time with the new Academic Integrity Code. There are four instances that are considered special situations (and we will not review here). They are instances within: Honors College, Research Misconduct, Graduate School, or Professional Schools (see, for example, the School of Education).

Additionally, UAB has created a page that houses some FAQs organized around the audience, and this is a great resource if you have a specific question and don't want to look through the policy and try to find it on your own. For more robust questions, however, accessing the policy would be wise.

The preliminary conversation is an informal discussion between the instructor and student, and UAB encourages these. If the instructor moves forward, they will decide, together with the coordinator, whether it's possible for a resolution agreement or if it must be referred to the coordinator. In instances where it is not the first offense, a resolution agreement is not possible. Once a faculty member has referred a case to a coordinator for resolution, the case will not be dropped.

Next, the decision is made by the coordinator as to whether a conference or hearing panel is the appropriate step. Cases must proceed to a hearing panel in instances where there are prior findings of academic misconduct, the case might result in expulsion or suspension, or the coordinator considers that its complexity, potential conflict of interest, or contested nature, merits the hearing panel.

If you meet with the coordinator, you will participate in a conference, and if your route goes via the hearing panel, you will attend a hearing. We'll further review the appeal process below.

Two instructors or faculty members and one student will comprise your hearing panel, and they will be drawn from the Academic Integrity Hearing Board. The standard for hearings is the “preponderance of evidence.” This means that the panel must find that it's “more likely than not” that the student committed the act in question.

What Are Possible Sanctions for Academic Misconduct?

Possible sanctions if the panel or coordinator finds that there was an instance of academic dishonesty vary in severity. They can range from a reduced grade on an assignment all the way to expulsion. Here are some other potential sanctions:

  • Academic integrity workshop
  • Additional course work
  • Failure of the assignment in question
  • Academic probation
  • Suspension (this requires an appeal for reinstatement)
  • Expulsion

How Does the University of Alabama-Birmingham Evaluate Severity of an Offense?

The University of Alabama-Birmingham offers guidelines to advise decision-makers on how to best select the appropriate sanctions for an incident of academic misconduct. There are three main categories that they divide situations into: minor, moderate, and major. If something is a minor offense, it counts as a first minor offense across all areas. Let's take a closer look at how they recommend decision-makers approach sanctions.

  1. Minor Offenses: These are instances that demonstrate an error in judgment. An example might be when a student is seen looking at another student's exam, but there's no evidence that the students collaborated or that the action was premeditated.
  2. Moderate Offenses: This category still applies to actions that are not premeditated; however, the guide adds the language of “dishonest acts” that most frequently only affect one student to this section. An example of a moderate cheating instance would be when a student cheats or helps another cheat on a test or exam (but there isn't any evidence to show premeditation).
  3. Major Offenses: Major offenses are (usually) premeditated dishonest acts that often impact not only their own grades but also others' grades. To stay with the cheating example, this could be an instance where two students work together (or multiple students) to cheat in a way that was pre-planned.

The Academic Integrity Code then offers a table for decision-makers to consult that has examples of violations and possible considerations that the decision-makers might want to keep in mind.

As far as how to determine which sanctions accompany which type of offense, UAB recommends the following.

  • First minor offense: sanctions may include academic integrity workshop, reduced grade on the assignment, additional course work, reduced course grade, failure of assignment, and the opportunity to revise or repeat the assignment

  • First moderate offense, or second minor offense: sanctions may include academic integrity workshop, reduced course grade, failure of assignment, F in the course, probation, suspension, and expulsion

  • First major offense, second moderate offense, or third offense of any type: sanctions may include academic integrity workshop, F in the course, probation, suspension, and expulsion

What Is the Appeal Process?

If your allegations are resolved in a conference with a coordinator, there is no option for appeal.

If, however, the Academic Integrity Hearing Panel has made the decision, you can appeal the decision in writing within five business days of receiving the notification of the panel's finding. According to the policy, the appeal review will only consider “findings of fact, recommended sanctions, or any written response from the accused student citing prejudice or procedural error.” The appeal could be returned to the original hearing panel or given to a new panel, per the Dean's decision. Once you request an appeal, you'll receive written notice from the Dean denying or supporting your appeal request within five business days.

Experienced Attorney-Advisor for the Best UAB Academic Integrity Defense

When you or one of your loved ones is facing allegations of academic dishonesty, it's easy to underestimate the significance and potential impact. Long-term, academic misconduct can mar your academic record, making it difficult to get the all-important internship, reducing your ability for admission to competitive graduate schools, and even your chance of winning scholarships. Expulsion, suspension, and probation can all negatively impact your financial future. Don't take any chances—speak with Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today. Attorney Lento and his team are highly experienced in helping students avoid and overcome the challenges associated with academic misconduct allegations. Call 888-535-3686 or reach out online for more information.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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