East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine (ECU SDM) says it up-front in its Mission Statement and list of Values: the school expects “the highest standards in achievement and performance.”
If you don't know it already, it's time you did: as a dental professional, you won't just be held accountable for your skills in oral health. You'll also be held accountable for your ethics, your professionalism, and even your personal life. Dental schools know this. That's why they hold students to the highest standards both in terms of academics and in terms of professionalism.
We all make mistakes, though. In fact, you can expect to make your share as a dental student. That's the whole point of education—to learn how to avoid mistakes and how to recover when you do make one. Most schools understand this. Sometimes, though, they can get over-zealous in training their students. If you feel you're being held to a standard that's too high, or if you're being held accountable for something you didn't even do, know that you have the right to question your school and challenge its decisions. That's not always easy, and you're probably going to need help, but you can keep your future bright even if you've made a mistake or two.
Academic Standards at ECU SDM
You knew coming into dental school that academic standards would be high, and ECU SDM probably hasn't disappointed you. The school expects all of its students to excel at their studies, and it keeps a close eye on you to make sure you do.
Review and Promotion (R&P) committees meet at the end of each semester to evaluate student progress. In order to move on to your next year or to graduate, you must pass all of your courses or satisfactorily complete remediation for those you don't. The R&P committee has the power to require remediation, but it also has the power to impose more severe sanctions. You can be asked to repeat a year, for instance. You can also be put on probation or dismissed altogether for poor academic performance.
According to the school's promotion guidelines, you can appeal the dismissal to the Dean, who will form an ad hoc committee to review your case. You have the right to appear before this committee but only to submit a statement and answer any questions members may have.
The guidelines make no mention of procedures for appealing a remediation recommendation or other sanctions like probation. This suggests questioning these decisions could be difficult at ECU SDM. It's just one reason why an attorney can be an important asset if you need to challenge your school.
Maintaining Professional Standards
The East Caroline University School of Dental Medicine doesn't just care about academics. Its policies on ethics and professionalism, located in the Student Handbook, are just as strict. Students are expected to “conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times, both on and off-campus.” In short, the school reserves the right to scrutinize your behaviors—all your behaviors—whether they relate to your status as a dental student or not.
Disciplinary infractions are handled by the school's Professional Conduct Committee. If you're accused of a violation, you are entitled to a hearing before this committee and to make statements, present evidence, and call witnesses. In addition, you have the right to bring an advisor with you to proceedings. However, in most cases, the school prohibits you from choosing an attorney to serve as your advisor.
This restriction does not mean a lawyer can't help with your case, though. An attorney can be invaluable for helping you draft documents, prepare a defense strategy, and practice answering questions. More importantly, they can keep a close eye on the process to make sure your rights aren't being violated.
Why Hire an Attorney?
Often, we associate attorneys with courtrooms and criminals. The reality is, lawyers do far more than raise objections and cross-examine witnesses. They're experts in the art of negotiation, they're skilled at document analysis, they're practiced in gathering evidence, and they know how to marshal resources for a presentation.
An attorney familiar with dental school policies and processes can help you in a number of ways, both large and small.
- Evaluating remediation plans: Remediation offers an important safety net if you fall behind in your studies. It can be costly, though, both in terms of time and money. You should always consult an attorney before signing on to a plan. Your school may tell you that you have no choice but to sign; they may not explain that there are sometimes other options to remediation. An attorney, though, can help you decide what's the best solution in your particular situation.
- Cleaning up your transcript: Remediation can also have long-lasting repercussions on your career if it is noted in your permanent academic record. So too can sanctions like probation. In fact, even a warning can cost you financial aid, fellowships, and job opportunities if it's noted on your transcript. An attorney can explain how to keep these sanctions out of your record and may even be able to help you remove sanctions you received in the past.
- Avoiding dismissal: The most serious sanction you can face as a dental student is dismissal. Few schools are willing to admit you if you already have a dismissal on your record. Even if you should find a spot in another program, you will likely have to start over. And should you finish, your original dismissal may still appear on your transcript. If you're facing dismissal, then you have nothing to lose by fighting it. It's vital, though, that you hire an attorney to help you build your case.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
There was a time when most schools did everything in their power to make sure you got a solid education and a good job. These days, though, schools are so worried about how they might look in the press that they sometimes focus more on discipline than education. It's important you take every accusation and every proposed sanction seriously and that you get help responding to them.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney who specializes in defending students in campus judicial cases. Over the years, Joseph D. Lento has represented hundreds of students, helping them get the justice they deserve. He knows the law, and he's a passionate defender of student rights. He also knows how schools operate and the tactics they use, and he knows how to handle them.
If you're facing a sanction from your dental school, trust your case to someone who knows dental schools. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.