It may never have occurred to you, but you want your university to take academic integrity seriously. If your school should develop a reputation for cheating, the value of your degree goes down, and you'll find it harder to land those top-tier jobs.
In their quest to burnish their reputations, though, schools sometimes go too far. They create policies that are simply too complicated to follow. They make wild accusations, even when the proof may be sketchy. They hand out sanctions far more severe than the violations deserve.
Maybe your school has leveled a false accusation against you. Or, maybe you did make a mistake. We all make them. Mistakes shouldn't put your academic and professional future at stake. If you're facing a charge of academic misconduct, don't just accept your fate. You have the right to challenge the charges and the right to question the punishments. Don't try to take on this battle by yourself, though. Make sure you have someone on your side who understands the system and knows how to navigate it.
Defining Academic Misconduct
If you're going to defend yourself from an accusation that you broke the rules, you should probably know exactly what the rules are.
Lamar University's policy on academics is unambiguous in its expectations. All students should “engage in academic pursuits in a manner that is above reproach” and “maintain complete honesty and integrity.” What does that mean in concrete, practical terms, though?
Lamar identifies four specific types of academic misconduct: cheating, plagiarism, collusion, and the abuse of research materials.
- Cheating: Lamar offers several different examples of cheating, but the definition of cheating is actually pretty simple. Basically, you are prohibited from using any unauthorized resources to complete your coursework. To get the full magnitude of this prohibition, you have to define “unauthorized resources” as broadly as possible. Obviously, looking at another student's answers during an exam, using your phone to look up answers, or hiding a crib sheet in the bill of your hat are all clear instances of using unauthorized resources. So too, though, are asking a student from another section what's on the test, asking someone else to take a test for you, or stealing a copy of the test from the professor's office. If your answers are coming from someplace other than your own head, and you don't have permission to use that source, it's cheating.
- Plagiarism: This term refers to any attempt to pass off another person's work or ideas as your own, especially without giving them credit. Here again, it's best if you interpret this definition as broadly as possible. You probably already know that buying a term paper online is academic misconduct. Plagiarism doesn't have to be so severe, though. It can be as simple as getting the idea for your paper from an article you read. And it doesn't just apply to the written word. You can plagiarize images, music, and even computer code.
- Collusion: In some ways, collusion is a fancy word for a specific sort of cheating. It involves unauthorized collaboration with another person in completing coursework. In essence, the person you're collaborating with is an “unauthorized source.” Either way, you're committing academic misconduct.
- Abuse of research materials: This means you shouldn't destroy lab equipment. It would also seem to mean that you shouldn't write in your library books. And the phrase “research materials” probably also applies to your classmate's work. That is, you also shouldn't deliberately sabotage someone else.
Academic Misconduct Procedures at Lamar University
In addition to knowing the rules, properly defending yourself also requires knowing how the judicial process works.
Primary responsibility for identifying and punishing academic misconduct at Lamar University rests with instructors. However, their actions are governed by the school's academic policy. For example, before leveling an accusation or assigning a sanction, an instructor must conduct a thorough investigation. If they do decide you are guilty, you are entitled to written notice of the violation, the penalty, and your right to appeal the decision.
Appeals generally follow the school's chain of command.
- Should you disagree with your instructor's decision, your first option is to submit a written appeal to the instructor's department chair.
- If your appeal to the chair doesn't resolve the matter, you can appeal further to the Dean. The Dean may make a determination themselves, or they may convene the Student-Faculty Relations Committee to consider the matter.
- Finally, if your appeal to the Dean should fail, you also have the right to appeal to the Provost. The Provost is required to convene an ad hoc committee drawn from the Student-Faculty Relations Committee to make a final determination in the case.
It is worth noting that at no point in this process are you entitled to present your side of the situation at an open hearing. Even when a committee reviews your request, it does so by considering the documents rather than inviting the two sides to testify. That doesn't mean you can't offer compelling arguments and submit supporting evidence. It simply means that you must do so in writing.
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.
It isn't easy to take on your school. 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. He understands how difficult it can sometimes be to get justice from a faculty member or an administrative official. Often, 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 bending judicial processes in a faculty member's favor. Joseph D. Lento has dedicated his entire career to confronting 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.