Dealing With Academic Misconduct Charges at Penn State University, World Campus

College is hard enough without a charge of academic misconduct hanging over your head. There are exams to cram for, games to attend, and parties to plan. You don't have time to deal with an accusation from your professor or a sanction that disrupts your academic progress.

Of course, the very best way to handle the hassles of a charge is simply to avoid being accused altogether. That's not always easy, though. Colleges and universities have become a little trigger-happy in the last few years. It seems they're so worried about protecting their own reputations that they'll level charges on the flimsiest of evidence, and the sanctions they assign are sometimes outrageously out of proportion to actual offenses.

That means it may not be enough to simply maintain your academic integrity. If you find yourself facing an unfair charge, or if the penalty your instructor or school has proposed seems too severe, you need to know how to protect yourself. Below, you'll find basic information about how your school treats academic misconduct, information that can help you prepare to mount a successful defense. More importantly, though, you'll find information about how to get help fighting your school.

Defining Academic Misconduct at PSU World Campus

The very first thing you need to know is how PSU World Campus defines academic misconduct. Obviously, this will help you avoid committing violations in the first place. It will also help you respond if you should find yourself accused.

The PSU World Campus policy on academic integrity is actually fairly vague when it comes to explaining the rules. It talks very broadly about “ethical principles” and “dishonesty,” as well as a handful specific types of violations such as cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation, and compromising the work of other students.

  • Cheating: Cheating actually gets used as a generic term for all sorts of misconduct. The specific definition, though, involves using unauthorized resources to complete your coursework. What is an unauthorized source? It could be anything. Asking another person to take an exam for you would certainly qualify. So would stealing an advanced copy of the exam from the professor's office. You don't have to go that far to be guilty of cheating, though. Cheating also includes looking at another person's paper or asking a friend in another section to tell you what to expect on the exam.
  • Plagiarism: Here again, this term can be applied to many different kinds of behavior. Ultimately, it means trying to pass another person's work off as your own. That could include buying a term paper online, using images in a PowerPoint that you grabbed online, or copying another student's code in creating a computer program.
  • Misrepresentation: A simpler word is “lying.” You can be charged with academic misconduct for faking lab results, inventing a source for a paper, or forging a doctor's note to get out of taking a quiz. These are all forms of misrepresentation.
  • Compromising the work of others: Finally, you're not supposed to interfere with anyone's work. “Interfere” can mean a direct action like changing the answers on a classmate's paper, but it can also apply to less obvious activities like defacing library materials so others can't use them.

Here's the danger with broadly worded prohibitions: they're so flexible that your instructor could potentially charge you with anything and probably make it stick. It's just one reason why, if you should wind up accused, you're going to need help proving your innocence.

PSU World Campus Judicial Procedures

The other important component of a misconduct defense is the procedures the school uses to adjudicate cases.

PSU World Campus's procedures are somewhat problematic, yet another good reason why it can be a good idea to get help if you're accused.

As at most schools, your instructor has the primary responsibility for deciding if you committed a violation and coming up with an appropriate sanction. They're supposed to meet with you first and give you a chance to respond. They should also give you some time to consider your options and, if necessary, provide proof of your innocence. Ultimately, though, they can assign you any “academic” sanction they choose. Generally, penalties include:

  • Verbal or written warnings
  • Re-takes, re-writes, or makeup work
  • A lowered grade on the assignment, up to a zero
  • A lowered grade in the course, up to an F

In addition, PSU World Campus requires faculty report all instances of academic misconduct to the Office of Student Conduct. This office has the authority to assign additional “disciplinary” sanctions for repeat offenders or particularly egregious offenses. Such sanctions can include probation, suspension, or even expulsion.

Of course, if you choose to accept responsibility and the penalty that goes with it, the process is simple. You sign a form, and that's that.

You can also choose to deny the charge. Should you do so, the school's Academic Integrity Committee will review the case. However, this review does not include a full formal hearing. Indeed, the school's procedures don't even specify that you have the right to submit arguments or evidence. You simply submit a form.

In addition, PSU World Campus apparently doesn't have any mechanism for contesting the sanction your instructor has assigned. This suggests that the school simply assumes all punishments are valid, no matter how draconian or inappropriate they might be.

Joseph D. Lento, Academic Misconduct Attorney-Advisor

Students don't always protest when they're charged with academic misconduct. Sometimes it seems easier to just accept a sanction—even if you're innocent—than to try taking on your school's faculty and administration. The problem with this approach is that sanctions—even minor sanctions—can have long-lasting consequences. If a warning about plagiarism should show up on your academic record, it could affect scholarships, internships, graduate school applications, and even your job search.

No one says it'll be easy to take on your school. In fact, it's likely to be difficult. You don't have to do it alone, though. Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in advising student clients. Joseph D. Lento understands how difficult it can sometimes be to get justice from a faculty member or an administrative official. The fact is schools just don't like to admit they're wrong. They'll do whatever they can to back up their faculty, even if it means writing vague rules and bending judicial processes in a faculty member's favor. Joseph D. Lento has dedicated his entire career to stopping these kinds of tactics. He's helped hundreds of clients defend themselves from charges big and small, and he can help you get the justice you deserve.

If you've been accused of academic misconduct, contact Joseph D. Lento today to find out what he can do for you. Call 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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