You may never have thought about it before, but you want your university to take academic integrity seriously. Try getting a job at a top company when you're a graduate of a second-rate school with a reputation for cheating.
There's serious, though, and then there's obsessive. Plenty of colleges and universities out there have begun to take their honor codes a little too seriously. That can lead to false accusations and overblown sanctions. No one thrives in an environment that's defined by paranoia.
So, what do you do if you should find yourself accused of something you didn't do? What do you do if maybe you did make a mistake, but your professor has gone overboard in trying to punish you for it? You do have the right to defend yourself, and your school has a process for doing that. It won't be easy, though. You'll need to find out everything you can about how your school handles these kinds of cases. You'll also want to get help from a qualified, experienced attorney-advisor. You can take on your school, and you can win, but it's much easier when you have a professional on your side.
How Idaho State Defines Academic Misconduct
As a starting point, you need to know how your school defines academic misconduct. A strong defense starts with understanding exactly what you've been charged with.
Idaho State University's Academic Integrity and Dishonesty Policy is relatively simple and straightforward, in some ways deceptively so. It lists just two kinds of offenses—cheating and plagiarism. However, both are broadly defined and cover a wide range of misconduct.
· Cheating: This refers to the use of unauthorized resources to complete your coursework. The trick to staying out of trouble is in understanding just what qualifies as an “unauthorized resource.” In fact, it can be almost anything. The old tried and true strategy of looking at a classmate's paper during an exam would qualify. So, too, would asking another person to take the exam for you, smuggling a cheat sheet in, using your book, texting your roommate for answers, studying a stolen copy of the exam, and anything else that might tend to give you an unfair advantage.
· Plagiarism: This offense is broadly defined as well. In simple terms, it means attempting to pass another person's work or ideas off as your own without giving them due credit. Obviously, you shouldn't buy your freshman comp paper from an online paper mill. You don't have to go that far, though, to be guilty of plagiarism. You can get in trouble for using a sentence from your textbook without including quotation marks and a citation. In addition, plagiarism isn't just about text. It applies to images, video, artwork, music, and even computer code. In fact, many professors will accuse you of grabbing an online picture and inserting it into your PowerPoint presentation without a citation.
Finally, you should know that ISU is careful to note that academic misconduct is “not limited” to cheating and plagiarism. That is, the school reserves the right to accuse you of virtually anything. That means you must be careful in how your complete your coursework. It also means that no matter how careful you are, you could still wind up being charged with misconduct.
Defending Yourself From Charges
In addition to the list of rules, Idaho State's policy on academic integrity also details the process by which you can defend yourself from charges.
Of course, primary responsibility for identifying and punishing instances of misconduct rests with instructors, who are in the best position to recognize dishonesty. In fact, instructors have enormous authority when it comes to how they handle these situations. The policy notes, for instance, that
“Any penalty imposed by an instructor for academic dishonesty shall be based on the instructor's professional judgment and wisdom.”
However, this doesn't mean they have carte blanche to act as they choose. They must inform their department head before assigning any penalty. In addition, they must choose from a list of prescribed penalties:
- Written warning to be placed in your academic file
- Re-submission of work
- Grade reduction on the assignment
- Course failure
Keep in mind the university keeps track of all academic misconduct and can assign additional disciplinary penalties for multiple offenses, including probation, suspension, and expulsion.
Your instructor must also provide you with written notice of both the charges and the sanction they've assigned. Once you've received this, you have fifteen business days in which to appeal these decisions. Should you appeal, the Dean of your college will set a date for a formal hearing at which you can present evidence and call witnesses in your defense.
If you are facing a more serious penalty, such as suspension or expulsion, your case is handled by ISU's Academic Dishonesty Board, which, likewise, holds a formal hearing into the matter.
The school does not allow you to bring legal representation with you to these hearings. However, an attorney-advisor can still be crucial in putting together your case, helping you prepare your presentation, and ensuring the school doesn't violate your due process rights.
Joseph D. Lento, Student Conduct Attorney-Advisor
Students don't always challenge their instructor's accusations of academic misconduct. Taking on your school can seem daunting, and it may not seem worth it, especially if you're facing a relatively “minor” penalty. The problem with this thinking is that there are no “minor” penalties. Even a warning can cause you problems if it's placed in your permanent file.
You must take every accusation seriously. That means finding out as much as you can about what you're up against and making sure you have help to handle it.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified, fully-licensed defense attorney. He's devoted his career, though, to using what he knows to help student clients. He has represented literally hundreds of students just like you, helping them defend themselves from all kinds of accusations, from simple cheating on a test to complicated plagiarism schemes. Joseph D. Lento knows how your school operates. He's also familiar with your school's judicial procedures and experienced in dealing with faculty and administrators. If you're a student looking to take on your school, you need the best representation you can find. You need Joseph D. Lento.
If you've been accused of any type of academic misconduct, don't wait to find out what might happen next. Contact Joseph D. Lento today to find out what he can do for you. Call 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.