One of the things that makes academic misconduct so slippery is that not every university defines it the same way. While most institutions agree in general that academic misconduct covers cheating, plagiarism, and sabotaging other students, they differ on exactly what counts and which offenses are the most serious. For example, Miami Dade College doesn't even use the word "misconduct," preferring to call cheating "academic dishonesty."
Misconduct at Miami Dade College
As of 2018, the Miami Dade College Code of Conduct defines academic dishonesty as 1) cheating on exams, including helping other people cheat, 2) cooperating on projects without the professor's permission, 3) plagiarism, and 4) "submitting work from another course unless permitted by the instructor," which most universities call self-plagiarism. This last usually refers to re-using a paper from a previous, completed course and not to creating one project that meets the criteria for two courses at once (professors can be quite pleased to see those, though a student is wise to acquire permission).
Punishments for Academic Dishonesty and Who Can Impose Them
At Miami Dade College, there are two types of punishment for academic dishonesty, Level I and Level II. Level I punishments include being required to re-take the exam or redo the assignment, being given an F on the exam or assignment, or receiving a lower grade for the course. As of 2018, Miami Dade College policy does not say that the professor may give the student a final grade of F for academic dishonesty alone. Level II punishments include everything from an F for the whole course to being suspended or dismissed from the school.
The professor teaching the course can impose a Level I punishment on his or her own. The Academic Hearing Committee may impose a Level I or Level II punishment.
Before Going to the Committee
The first step in dealing with academic dishonesty is a preliminary meeting between the professor and the accused student. The professor is required to meet with the student and tell him or her about Miami-Dade College's Student Rights and Responsibilities Webpage. If the student confesses to the offense, if the professor chooses a Level I punishment, and if the student accepts the Level I punishment, then Miami-Dade College considers the matter settled. However, if the student does not confess, if the professor wants a Level II punishment, or if the student confesses but thinks the punishment is unfair, then the disciplinary process continues.
The professor and student then have another preliminary meeting, this time with the Department Chairperson. Again, the Chairperson must make sure the student knows about the Rights and Responsibilities Webpage. If the three parties agree that the student committed the offense and that the Level I sanction is appropriate, then Miami-Dade College does not require anything further. But if they still disagree about what happened or if the professor or Chair thinks a Level II punishment is needed, then a formal hearing must take place with the Academic Hearing Committee.
The Academic Hearing Committee
The Academic Hearing Committee has two students, two faculty members, two school administrators and the Student Dean.
Before the student sees the Academic Hearing Committee, the Student Dean meets with the student in person to give him or her a written message called a Notice of Charge. The Student Dean tells the student how the hearing will work and what rights accused students have. The student must fill out and return the Notice of Charge to plead guilty or not guilty within three business days. If the student does not respond, the Academic Hearing Committee will assume they want to plead not guilty.
Miami-Dade College recognizes the student's right to see and hear all the evidence, to testify in his or her own defense, to question all witnesses against him or her, and to present his or her own evidence and witnesses.
All these hearings are recorded on audiotape, and all written materials are saved. The Student Dean sends the student a certified letter of the Academic Hearing Committee's decision. After receiving this letter, the student has three business days to appeal to the Campus President. This appeal cannot merely argue that the decision must wrong; it must either prove that the punishment is too severe or prove that the Academic Hearing Committee broke some of Miami-Dade College's rules, such as failing to allow the student to present a witness or failing to tell the student of his or her rights. Once the President has responded, there may be no further appeal.
How an Advisor Can Help
Miami-Dade College recognizes the student's right to see and hear all the evidence, to testify in his or her own defense, to question all witnesses against him or her, and to present his or her own evidence and witnesses. However, this doesn't mean that the student will know how to do any of these things well. Almost everyone at the Academic Hearing Committee meeting will have attended a student disciplinary meeting before, and the accused is likely to be a first-timer.
A professional legal advisor can help the student navigate complicated school procedures, tell the student which types of evidence to include, and spot misconceptions and mistakes before it is too late. Additionally, an attorney-advisor can work towards ensuring a fair process and a favorable outcome.
Most accused students, especially falsely accused students, find the academic dishonesty process emotionally harrowing and may not be at their best when it comes time to speak in their own defense. Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can teach the student to prepare, practice, and present their side of events in the best possible light. Arrange your professional assistance by calling 888-535-3686.