Drew University is a small liberal arts college of 1,500 located on a large and wooded campus in Madison, New Jersey. The school, which is affiliated with the United Methodist faith, offers undergraduate degrees in liberal arts disciplines as well as theological degrees in its seminary. There is also a large graduate program of around 700 additional students.
Like all accredited universities in the U.S., Drew University takes academic honesty very seriously, and heavily sanctions students who commit academic misconduct like plagiarism or other kinds of cheating. Drew University's academic policy, which outlines its definitions of academic misconduct and how the school investigates allegations, can be found in its online Academic Catalog. Because the sanctions for violating this policy can be severe and can tarnish your academic record at the very time you need it most—when you are first venturing into the professional world—it can be worthwhile to have an attorney defend you against allegations of academic misconduct.
Investigation of an Allegation of Academic Misconduct
Instructors or other students bear the responsibility for reporting potential instances of academic misconduct. When it is an instructor who suspects that a violation of the academic policy has occurred, he or she is responsible for reporting the suspicion to the Dean of the College. When it is a student who suspects a violation has occurred, the student reports the incident to the instructor, who then notifies the Dean of the College if they think the allegation carries weight.
When the allegation is for a minor violation and it would be the student's first offense against the academic policy, the Dean, the instructor, and the student may agree to try to pursue the Alternative Resolution Procedure. If this alternative procedure is attempted but it fails, or if the allegation is a relatively serious one, then the instance will lead to the Dean of the College convening the Academic Integrity Committee.
The Alternative Resolution Procedure
If the allegation of misconduct would only amount to a minor violation of Drew University's academic policies, and the student being accused of the violation has never been accused, before, the instructor, the student, and the Dean of the College can all agree to pursue the Alternative Resolution Procedure.
This Procedure avoids a full-fledged hearing by the Academic Integrity Committee, and involves three steps:
- The student admits to the violation and agrees to correct the assignment at issue
- The student signs a form that describes the violation, the resolution taken, and includes a written promise that the issue will not occur, again
- The instructor signs the form and the form, as well as all evidence of the violation, goes into the student's file in the Dean of the College's office, where it stays on record until it gets destroyed one year after the student has graduated from Drew University
If the student is later found guilty of committing an instance of academic misconduct, the confession produced during the Alternative Resolution Procedure can be used as evidence of a prior offense that exacerbates the sanction the student can face.
If the student, instructor, and Dean agree to pursue the Alternative Resolution Procedure, but then the negotiation breaks down or the student does not complete the assignment as required, the Dean of the College will convene the Academic Integrity Committee.
The Academic Integrity Committee
The Academic Integrity Committee is made up of two faculty members at Drew University, one student from the Judicial Board of the College of Liberal Arts, the accused student's academic adviser, and one more faculty member chosen by the accused student. If one of the Committee members thinks that there is a conflict of interest, they are supposed to recuse themselves from the hearing.
The student facing the allegations can request up to a week to prepare for the Committee hearing to prepare their response.
At the beginning of the hearing, the faculty member and the student make their statements and answer questions from the Committee, and can even address the Committee without the presence of the others involved.
After hearing the statements and asking relevant questions, the Committee will deliberate in private before voting.
If the preponderance of the evidence shows that the student has violated the academic policy, then the Committee can issue a sanction, including:
- Denial of college privileges
- Stripping credit for the assignment
- Stripping credit for the course
The penalty of expulsion from Drew University is only possible if the offense was not the student's first.
Records of the case will be kept in the Dean of the College's office until a year has passed since the student's graduation.
The Appeals Process
Either the student or the faculty member can appeal, in writing, a decision by the Academic Integrity Committee, but only in the following three circumstances:
- New evidence has been found
- The Committee's hearing overlooked specific evidence
- The Committee's hearing involved procedural errors
This appeal goes to the Dean's Council, which can refuse to hear the case if it is not satisfied that one of these three circumstances is present.
The five-member Dean's Council will hold a hearing on the appeal, though the Dean of the College is not allowed to vote. Other faculty members who recuse themselves are replaced by a temporary replacement appointed by the Dean of the College.
During the hearing, the faculty member and the student, along with a faculty member of the student's choice, can be present to make statements and answer the Council's questions.
The Council's decision is final, is based on a preponderance of the evidence, and will be supplied in writing to both the faculty member and the student.
New Jersey Student Discipline Attorney Joseph D. Lento
Getting accused of cheating or other academic misconduct is not a small thing. It can make it difficult to graduate, tarnish your academic record and reputation, and put you behind your peers as you enter the professional world. Defending against such an allegation can make a huge difference, years into the future.
Joseph D. Lento is a student discipline attorney in New Jersey. Contact him online or by phone at 855-535-3686 for help defending against a charge of misconduct at Drew University.