If you're a college student, you're going to make mistakes. It's practically your job. You're out on your own for the first time, exploring your world. You're supposed to try things out, test your limits, and see how far you can go. The trick is to know how to recover from a mistake once you've made it.
Academic misconduct can be a serious charge, even if you're only accused of a minor infraction. A notation about cheating, if it's included in your academic record, can affect scholarships, graduate school applications, and even job prospects.
How do you make sure an academic misconduct accusation doesn't derail your entire future? You learn all you can about how your school treats infractions.
- What are the rules, and how do you avoid breaking them?
- If you are accused, what are the procedures for defending yourself?
- Who do you turn to for help if you should find yourself in trouble?
We all make mistakes. Don't let yours define you.
What Is Academic Misconduct Anyway?
First and foremost, what is academic misconduct? Basically, that phrase refers to any activity that gives you an unfair advantage in getting your degree. Cal State, San Marcos divides academic misconduct into four specific categories.
- Cheating: “Cheating” is a word you've heard all your life, but what does it mean, exactly? In concrete terms, cheating refers to the use of unauthorized materials to complete assignments. That might mean using your book during a closed-book exam. It could include looking up quiz answers online. And, of course, in most cases, help from another person would also be “unauthorized.”
- Fabrication: According to CSUSM, “fabrication” has to do with inventing information or citations in your coursework. That includes things like making up lab results or pretending that information you got from a sketchy online blog actually came from a high-brow scholarly journal.
- Facilitating academic dishonesty: CSUSM treats helping someone else to commit misconduct as equivalent to committing the misconduct yourself. In other words, you're not allowed to help your roommate with their paper or tell students in a later section of a course what was on the final exam.
- Plagiarism: Finally, CSUSM also lists “plagiarism” as a serious type of academic misconduct. Here again, you are probably familiar with the term but may not know its precise definition. It means trying to pass off another person's “words, ideas, or work” as your own without giving them due credit. In fact, you should know that plagiarism doesn't just apply to written papers. You can plagiarize music, video, and even computer code.
The Procedures and Penalties in Academic Misconduct Cases
California State University, San Marcos doesn't provide a lot of information when it comes to explaining how it deals with academic misconduct. The school does note that the primary enforcement of its integrity policy lies with instructors but that instructors are required to report violations to the Dean of Student's Office. That administrative official then has the right to assign disciplinary penalties—including probation, suspension, and expulsion—as they see fit. In essence, then, the process has two parts:
- Instructors identify misconduct and assign classroom sanctions.
- The Dean of Students maintains records and decides if any additional “disciplinary” sanctions are necessary.
The school provides far less information when it comes to explaining how students might respond to allegations of misconduct. In its published materials on Standards for Student Conduct, CSUSM does say, “The Chancellor shall adopt procedures to ensure students are afforded appropriate notice and an opportunity to be heard before the University imposes any sanction for a violation of the Student Conduct Code.”
That's it, though: no details about who to talk to if you have a case, no details about how a hearing process might work. What are you to do if you're innocent of the accusation your instructor has made against you? What happens if you do accept responsibility for cheating but feel the instructor's sanctions are unfair? What procedures are in place to defend yourself from a “disciplinary” sanction imposed by the Dean of Students?
In fact, what the school does have to say on these matters is somewhat troubling:
“Faculty have the ultimate responsibility and discretion when grading students who have been dishonest in class.”
The term “ultimate” here would seem to suggest that an instructor's decisions about academic misconduct aren't reviewable by any school official or committee, placing total authority in the hands of a single individual.
What does all this mean? Among other things, it means that if you should find yourself accused of academic misconduct at CSUSM, you face an uphill battle to prove your innocence. The school seems intent on making sure you don't find out how to fight that battle.
Joseph D. Lento Can Help
Students often simply accept their punishments for academic misconduct, even when they are innocent, because it seems like too much trouble to try to take on their school's justice system. You can see why. At a school like CSUSM, it's hard to know how to even file a complaint.
Yet the consequences for academic misconduct can be severe. In the classroom, you face a lower grade on the assignment or even a failure in the course. In addition, the school can suspend or even expel you if it chooses. At a minimum, your violation may be noted on your transcript for a probationary period of time.
You don't have to just accept these outcomes, though. Get help and defend your academic reputation.
Joseph D. Lento is an attorney who specializes in academic misconduct cases at colleges and universities. He's served as advisor to hundreds of students, helping them fight to prove their innocence or demand fairer sanctions. Joseph D. Lento is a fighter with courtroom experience. He's just as comfortable, though, dealing with university faculty and administrators. Most importantly, Joseph D. Lento is committed to getting you the very best possible outcome in your case.
If you've been accused of academic misconduct, don't try to handle the situation by yourself. Make sure you have Joseph D. Lento on your side. Call 888-555-3686 to find out more or use our automated online form.