Academic integrity is the cornerstone of intellectual communities, and colleges severely punish any infractions. If your school has accused you of academic misconduct, you must act quickly to protect your academic and professional aspirations.
The University of Texas at El Paso punishes academic misconduct through its centralized judicial system. Guilty determinations of academic misconduct can jeopardize students' academic careers and affect their professional lives down the line.
It is important to understand how your school handles allegations of academic misconduct and why, despite what your school may say, you need a student defense attorney to assist you through the process.
Expectations of Academic Integrity at The University of Texas at El Paso
The University of Texas expects students to maintain high standards of absolute integrity. In the broadest sense, academic integrity is a commitment to fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility. This means that, at the least, you should complete any assignments, exams, and other scholastic endeavors with the utmost honesty. The University of Texas at El Paso lays out its policy on academic conduct in its Handbook of Operating Procedures.
What Counts as Academic Dishonesty at The University of Texas at El Paso
“Any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty is subject to discipline. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, collusion, the submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person without giving sufficient credit, taking an examination for another person, or any act designed to give an unfair advantage to a student or the attempt to commit such acts.”
Who Handles Suspected Academic Misconduct?
Unlike in many schools which encourage faculty to deal with academic misconduct themselves at a classroom level, at the University of Texas at El Paso, the Dean of Students and their designated Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution handle all cases formally.
All alleged acts of academic misconduct are reported to the Dean of Students. The Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution will investigate each allegation a faculty member has reported. It is up to them to either dismiss the allegation or proceed with disciplinary action, in which case they will have to ensure you have your due process.
Though in some schools it is the norm, at El Paso, it is a violation of the Regents' Rules and Regulations for your instructor to withdraw you from class or fail you for suspected dishonesty instead of reporting the violation to the Dean of Students.
The Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution will conduct an investigation and determine whether to proceed with the charges. If they proceed and open a case against you, they will notify you and summon you to a formal meeting, called an “administrative disposition,” to determine whether you are responsible or not for academic misconduct. You will have a chance to provide information and insight and make your case.
Following this meeting, they will make a finding and propose an appropriate sanction. Uncontested cases with agreed sanctions end here.
If the school plans to suspend any of your rights and privileges unfairly, or you dispute the facts they have based this on, you can appeal the disciplinary action.
These charges will then be heard and determined by a fair and impartial Hearing Officer who will be a tenured faculty member.
The process in full is as follows:
- OSCRR opens a case
- OSCRR notifies student
- Administrative disposition
- University hearing
- Appeal to the Office of the President
What does a Hearing Involve?
Before a hearing, both sides provide the other a list of witnesses, a summary of their testimony, and a copy of the documents they will introduce at the hearing.
Both sides have the right to appear at the hearing, present witness testimony and evidence, cross‐examine witnesses, and be assisted by an advisor.
The Dean may recommend a sanction to be assessed by the Hearing Officer. They may base their recommendation on the past practice at the University for similar violations, your disciplinary record, or any other relevant factors. You are entitled to respond to Dean's recommendations.
The Hearing Officer will send both you and the Dean their written decision with findings of fact, a conclusion as to whether you are responsible for a violation, and any sanction they assess to be appropriate.
What Sanctions Might You Face?
The school may suspend your rights and privileges, issue an academic sanction, or in the worst case, expel you. Common sanctions include:
- “Virtual Academic Integrity Laboratory
- 0 on assignment/exam (cannot be replaced)
- Reduced Course Grade by One Letter
- Disciplinary Probation (four months, six months, Academic Year, Calendar Year, or Through Graduation – only through OSCCR, no holds will be placed on account)
- Learning Pathways
- Suspension or Expulsion from University”
The school might decide upon an academic sanction, such as lowering a grade on an assignment, test, or in your course. They also might decide upon any other disciplinary sanction they deem necessary. Regardless of whatever sanction the school settles on, the school will maintain its records of your academic dishonesty for at least five years, and the reputational damage can hurt your academic and professional aspirations.
How Can You Appeal?
You can request a university hearing during your administrative disposition meeting to dispute both the decision and the sanctions.
If the University Hearing Officer has found you responsible, you can appeal to the Office of the President to dispute the sanctions and/or the decision via an online form.
What can an Attorney-Advisor do?
If the school is investigating you to determine if you have violated their code of conduct, your school might try to persuade you that it's not a legal matter, so you don't need an attorney. However, you have the right to have an advisor of your choice, and the more experienced the advisor, the better equipped you will be.
There are enormous benefits to having an experienced academic misconduct attorney-advisor at your side. An experienced attorney-advisor will be able to put forward the best possible defense, determine if the school has treated you fairly and followed due process, and, if necessary, guide you through a grievance procedure or appeal.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have successfully defended countless students against academic misconduct charges in colleges and universities across the nation. Call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.