Most colleges and universities take academic integrity very seriously, as well they should. It isn't just a matter of “doing the right thing” or “taking your education seriously.” If your school should develop a reputation for cheating, you may find it hard to get a good job once you graduate. Employers aren't anxious to hire students from second-rate schools.
Still, some universities can be a little too rigid when it comes to identifying and punishing academic misconduct. Innocent students do sometimes wind up accused by overly zealous faculty. Universities do occasionally assign penalties that just aren't proportional to the actual offense.
What do you do if you find yourself falsely accused or facing a sanction that doesn't seem fair? Two things. First, find out all you can about how your school treats policy violations. The only way you can properly defend yourself is if you understand how the judicial system operates. But you can't do it alone. So, your second job should be to find an attorney, someone who can help you fight to preserve your reputation.
Defining Academic Misconduct
Every college and university defines academic misconduct just a little differently. CSUEB, for example, lists ten separate offenses, some of which are oddly specific. For the most part, though, these can be organized into a few simple categories:
- Cheating: This word has become a generic term for dishonesty. In its strictest sense, though, it means using unauthorized materials to complete your coursework. This could include looking at another person's paper during a quiz, using notes during a closed-book exam, or getting homework answers online. If you don't have permission to use whatever resource you're using, you're probably committing misconduct.
- Plagiarism: Most of us know this one as well. Plagiarism means attempting to pass another person's work off as your own. Obviously, it applies to words and ideas, but you should know that you can also be accused of plagiarizing images, videos, music, and even computer code.
- Assisting someone to commit misconduct: You probably recognize it's wrong to steal a copy of a professor's exam and sell it on the black market. However, even something as seemingly innocent as telling a classmate from another section what to expect on a test can get you accused of misconduct.
- Falsifying information: This one covers a multitude of sins. It refers to obvious misdeeds, like inventing a source for a paper or making up lab data instead of actually doing the experiment. However, forging a doctor's note or signing a classmate's name on the daily attendance sheet also qualify.
Academic Misconduct Procedures
At Cal State, East Bay, faculty have the primary responsibility for identifying and punishing academic misconduct. The university doesn't provide a lot of advice on how they should go about these tasks. It does offer some examples of what kind of sanctions instructors can apply:
- Make-up assignment for all or partial credit
- Grade adjustment on the assignment, up to an F
- Course grade adjustment, up to an F
The school's misconduct policy goes on to note that faculty must report all academic misconduct to the Academic Affairs Office. This office maintains records of all reports and can assign disciplinary punishments to repeat offenders. These might include probation, suspension, or even expulsion.
Obviously, if you accept responsibility for your actions and any sanctions that might go with them, CSUEB's justice system is relatively straightforward. You're only real concern is not to commit any future violations.
If, however, you dispute the accusation or disagree with the sanction, you're supposed to follow the school's Grade Appeal process.
- As a first step, CSUEB suggests you try to work out the situation with your instructor. Of course, if the instructor has accused you of dishonesty, there may not be much for the two of you to discuss.
- If you can't solve the problem with your instructor, you're supposed to raise your issue with the chair of the department that houses the course you're taking.
- If meeting with the chair doesn't resolve the problem, CSUEB suggests you contact the dean of the college where the department is located.
- Finally, if all other remedies fail, you can submit your case, including documentation, to the school's Grade Appeal and Academic Grievance Committee for review.
It's worth noting that Cal State, East Bay doesn't offer any specifics as to how any of these steps in the Grade Appeals process work. There's no standard, for instance, on how a particular administrator should go about deciding whether a given sanction is fair or not. This suggests you must simply rely on the judgment of the various officials looking into your case.
Joseph D. Lento, Academic Misconduct Advisor
Too many students accept allegations against them, even if they know they're innocent. Why? Taking on your university is no easy task. Professors can be intimidating, and often it's a given that the school's administration will back them up.
The problem with that strategy is that even a minor infraction can have repercussions that affect not only your academic career but your professional career as well. Expulsion shows up on your transcript, and it can prevent you from re-applying to any other schools. Probation and suspension are noted as well, at least as long as you're serving them. In fact, even a warning placed in your file could cost you scholarships, prevent you from getting into grad school, and show up during job interviews.
Don't risk your future. Take every allegation seriously, and don't be afraid to fight.
Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph Lento is a fully qualified defense attorney who specializes in academic misconduct cases. He's served as advisor to hundreds of students just like you. He's dealt with every kind of accusation, from simple plagiarism cases to complex cheating scandals. Joseph D. Lento is a tough-as-nails litigator who knows how to protect your rights. At the same time, he's experienced in dealing with campus faculty and administration. He speaks the lingo, and he knows how to negotiate to get you the best possible outcome.
If you've been accused of academic misconduct, let us defend you. Contact Joseph D. Lento today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.