James Madison University, a public research university, in the heart of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, was founded in 1908 and was ranked the #1 most innovative university in the south by U.S. News & World Report. If you or your loved one attends JMU, a lot of hard work probably went into getting there. One of the quickest ways to derail an academic career—and potential future earnings—is allegations of academic dishonesty. These sorts of allegations, while they may seem mild, can actually prove insidious and impact everything from scholarships and financial aid, to graduate program admissions to employment opportunities. If you are currently facing an accusation of violating the Honor Code, it's critical that you take the allegation seriously. In this guide, we'll review some of JMU's processes as well as their guidelines for academic integrity.
JMU Honor Code Violations
James Madison University offers several resources for students that define academic integrity. You'll find a discussion around academic honesty in the catalog as well. Additionally, a statement about academic honesty is a requirement for all syllabi at the school. It's important, however, to understand that JMU considers academic dishonesty an honor code violation. There isn't room in this overview to list all of the possible actions that are listed as Honor Code Violations—the non-exhaustive list has nearly twenty items. However, here are some of the less common ones for your perusal:
- Giving false or misleading information about an academic matter
- Lying about why a student didn't attend a class, complete an assignment, or take an exam
- Using library resources or computer labs in an academically dishonest manner
- Violating an Informal Resolution Agreement
- Falsifying data (scientific or otherwise) that the student submits for academic credit or research
- Collaborating in any way that isn't previously authorized with any other student(s) on an exam or an assignment that will be graded or evaluated for academic credit
- Use of any unauthorized materials (we suggest reading through their description of this in the Honor Code)
When you first receive notice of an Honor Code investigation, it's wise to review Section VI of the Honor Code, where JMU lists out nearly fifteen rights of accused students. Some of these rights include the presumption of innocence until proven responsible, a fair and impartial hearing before the appropriate hearing body, notification of charges, and a summary of any pertinent evidence.
The Disciplinary Process at James Madison University
The process for suspected violations of the honor code begins with an instructor suspecting a violation. At this stage, they may submit an Honor Violation report form, or they could approach the student directly. If they work with you directly and you agree to their allegations, then you and the instructor will fill out the Informal Resolution Agreement form. On the other hand, if you disagree with their findings, then the matter will be moved forward to the Honor Council.
The Honor Council uses the clear and convincing evidence standard, which is more rigorous than the preponderance of evidence standard that many schools use. An assigned investigator will first gather information to determine whether or not there is enough information to proceed with a charge of an Honor Code violation. If the allegation moves forward, at this point, it will move forward to a hearing. The hearing procedures are detailed under Section VIII of the Honor Code.
What Are the Penalties for Honor Code Violations?
You can find penalties for Honor Code Violations listed in Section VII of the JMU Honor Code. The school does distinguish between a first violation and subsequent violations. It's important to understand, however, that first violations can have suspension and expulsion as potential penalties. Other potential penalties include reduced or failing grades on the item in question and reduced or failing grades for the course. Additionally, if there is a prior Honor Code violation on your record, then the minimum penalty is an F in the course and suspension for a semester. In the case of a second (or greater) offense, your only option for resolution is the Hearing Board, not an informal resolution with the professor.
Penalties for violations by students in the graduate schools will only be finalized once the relevant graduate school instructor on the Honor Council Advisory Board has been consulted.
Can You Appeal a Finding?
It is possible to appeal a finding by the Hearing Board. You will have five business days once you receive notice of their determination. In order to do so, you must send the Honor Council coordinator a written statement that describes the reason for your appeals. There are only three reasons that the school will consider: violation of due process rights, availability of new evidence, and the unreasonableness of a decision.
If you do not submit this written appeal within five class days, then the decision is considered final in all instances, except those which have penalties of suspension or expulsion. In those instances, there will be a final review, as noted in Section VIII of the Honor Code.
Although some schools conduct appeals by solely reviewing the prior hearing, at JMU, there is an appeal hearing. At the appeal hearing, the appeal body may review the first hearing as well as recall witnesses or examine additional evidence or testimony.
Attorney Advisor to Defend Your Due Process Rights for Academic Misconduct Allegations
Although James Madison University does not allow attorneys or attorney-advisors to “actively represent” you or your loved one at a hearing, they do permit their presence. And they allow the advisor to provide counsel as to how to best present a defense. In situations as serious as honor code violations, this sort of assistance is invaluable and can make the difference between being found responsible or having charges dismissed, or when mitigation is necessary, the difference between expulsion from school, suspension, probation, a warning, and more. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have worked with countless students at James Madison University and nationwide to ensure that they are treated fairly and receiving due process for allegations of academic dishonesty. Call them today at 888.535.3686 or reach out online to see how they can help you navigate this challenging time.