Baylor University's honor code doesn't just encourage students to act with integrity but with the “utmost integrity.” That single word should tell you this school takes academic misconduct seriously.
There can be a fine line, though, between vigilance and paranoia. In their rush to find and punish cheaters, schools like Baylor can and do get it wrong sometimes. Innocent students wind up accused, and students who have made mistakes wind up with penalties far heavier than what they deserve.
If you're one of them, know that you don't just have to accept an accusation. You can question a punishment that seems too harsh. You have the right to fight for your academic and professional future. That fight begins with finding out as much as you can about how your school deals with misconduct cases.
Academic Misconduct at Baylor
Baylor's honor code isn't the easiest document to decipher. For one thing, it's full of archaic syntax. The very first rule, for example, bans “Offering for course credit as one's own work, in whole or in part, the work of another.”
And there are sixteen of these rules. Even so, it's important to get to know what they say, not just so you can avoid breaking any of them, but so you'll be better prepared to respond if you're accused. Luckily, there is some overlap between them, so it's possible to boil them down to a few basic principles.
- Don't plagiarize: This one's pretty simple. Basically, give credit where credit is due. You're not supposed to try and pass off someone else's work as your own. That goes for written papers, but it also applies to music, video, even computer code. Grabbing pictures off the web and inserting them into your PowerPoint could get you in trouble. And you're prohibited from self-plagiarizing—turning the same work in to two different courses.
- Don't cheat: Again, pretty straightforward. You can't use unauthorized materials to complete coursework. What exactly does “unauthorized materials” mean? Anything you can imagine. Don't look at someone else's paper during an exam, don't copy your roommate's homework, and don't look up quiz answers on your phone, things like that.
- Don't misrepresent: Misrepresentation might include anything from signing a classmate's name to the attendance log to forging doctor's notes to hacking into the mainframe and changing your transcript.
- Don't sabotage anyone else's work: Among other things, Baylor mentions that you shouldn't deface library books.
- Don't help anyone else break the rules: Baylor goes so far as to say that failing to turn someone in if you know they're cheating is its own code violation.
Baylor's Judicial Process
Baylor puts the primary responsibility for identifying and punishing honor code violations in the hands of its faculty. However, those decisions are subject to further review by the Office of Academic Integrity (OAI) and the school's Honor Council.
- When an instructor believes a student has violated the code, they are supposed to meet with that student and get their side of the story. Obviously, the instructor can decide at this point that the student is innocent and simply drop the matter. If they believe the student is guilty, however, they assign a penalty. This typically includes re-writing the assignment for some or all credit, accepting a lower grade on the assignment, or accepting a lower grade in the course. In addition, the instructor must file a report about the misconduct with the OAI.
- A student who disagrees with their instructor's decisions can appeal to the Honor Council, a committee made up of faculty and students. Students are entitled to a hearing at which they may present evidence and call witnesses. However, attorneys are not allowed to attend the proceedings.
- If the violation is particularly severe or the student has a record of past violations, the OIA is required to refer the case to the Honor Council, who decide if additional sanctions are warranted. These additional sanctions might include probation, suspension, or expulsion.
- Students can appeal Honor Council findings to the Provost if they believe the Council acted capriciously. They can also appeal the severity of sanctions to the President.
Finally, students can also petition in their last semester to have violations expunged from their record. However, the department chair and two faculty members of the Honor Council must unanimously agree before an expungement is granted.
Joseph D. Lento, Academic Misconduct Attorney
Far too many students simply accept accusations against them. They don't argue their innocence. They don't challenge their sanctions. You can understand why: going up against an instructor seems like a daunting proposition. You aren't just taking on one faculty member, you're taking on the entire school, questioning its integrity.
If you don't push back, though, you face more than just a sanction. Even if your instructor simply asks you to re-write the assignment, a record of your violation is going into your permanent file. That could mean you lose scholarship money; it could keep you from applying to specialized academic programs. If you aren't able to expunge your record, a misconduct violation could prevent you from getting into grad school or hurt your job applications. After all, no employer is looking to hire a graduate with a record of misconduct. Maybe most importantly, though, by just accepting what's happening to you, you allow the school to take away your own good name.
Don't do it. You can fight back, and we're here to help.
Joseph D. Lento is an attorney who specializes in university misconduct cases nationwide. He built his career helping students just like you get the justice they deserve. He understands that schools can be too quick to judge that they have become too harsh in giving out sanctions. He's on your side and ready to go to battle for your rights.
If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct, don't wait. Act now to protect your future. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.