So, your college English professor has accused you of plagiarizing parts of your final paper. He's planning to lower your grade on the paper, but it won't affect your final grade in the class. Do you really need to hire an attorney to handle a simple situation like this?
It turns out the answer is yes. Here's the thing: if you admit to academic misconduct, it really doesn't matter what the punishment is. Even a warning can have long-lasting consequences if it should wind up in your permanent record. A notation in your file that says you're a cheater can cost you scholarship money; it can keep you from getting into internships and graduate school; it can even be an issue when you go to apply for your first job.
How exactly can an attorney help? A skilled attorney, someone with experience advising student clients, can offer advice on talking with faculty and administrators, can assist you in drafting documents to appeal your punishment, and may even be able to represent you at formal hearings.
Defining the Rules at Valdosta State
It's always a good idea to know the rules at your university. That way, you know what not to do. In addition, though, knowing the rules is the key to a strong defense. You can't counter the charges unless you understand them.
First and foremost, then, you need to know exactly what Valdosta State's Academic Honesty Policy has to say. That policy lists five separate types of violation.
- Use of unauthorized materials: Also known as “cheating,” this includes using your book during a closed-book exam, texting your roommate for answers, and smuggling a crib sheet in on the inside of your soda bottle label.
- Helping someone complete their coursework: Misconduct isn't just about getting unauthorized help from others. You're also forbidden from giving unauthorized help to others. Doing so can get you in just as much trouble as if you're the one who benefits.
- Taking or stealing unauthorized materials: VSU prohibits getting your hands on any course material that you're not supposed to have. In simple terms, this means advanced copies of exams.
- Giving someone else unauthorized materials: For good measure, you're also forbidden from giving anyone else unauthorized course materials. Again, in simple terms, this means exams.
- Plagiarism: Finally, as you might expect, all forms of plagiarism are expressly forbidden at VSU. Keep in mind: plagiarism doesn't just apply to text. You can be accused of plagiarizing images, videos, music, and even computer code.
You should also know that the policy explicitly states, “Additional violations may be added as deemed appropriate.” Generally speaking, if it's listed in your syllabus, it's a rule. You can be charged with misconduct for breaking it, your instructor can punish you, and the school will almost always back them up.
Processes and Penalties at Valdosta State
Knowing the rules is half the battle. It will help you begin creating a sound argument for your innocence. In addition, though, you need to know how the judicial process at your school works. What opportunities will you have to make your case, and who will you get to make it to?
Valdosta State's policy offers a brief overview of how faculty should handle misconduct. If they suspect a student of violating policy, they are supposed to
- Gather documentary evidence of the infraction
- Meet with the student
- Notify the department head and/or dean
- Submit an Academic Report to the Student Conduct Office
The policy notes that the maximum sanction an instructor may assign is a failing grade in the course. However, an instructor can choose from a range of lesser penalties as well, including
- Verbal or written warning
- Makeup assignment or assignment resubmission
- Assignment on the nature of academic integrity
- Lowered grade on the assignment in question, up to a zero
The Student Conduct Office can assign a harsher sanction in cases of repeat offenses. These sanctions can include suspension and expulsion.
You have the right to challenge the school's findings and the sanction you've been given. How you do that will depend on whether you've been punished just by your instructor or by the Student Conduct Office as well.
If you're simply dealing with a charge from your instructor, you can file a Grade Appeal Form at the end of the semester. In addition to the form itself, you submit documentary evidence to support your claims. This material all goes to the instructor first. Assuming the instructor re-affirms their original decision, it goes next to the head of the department that offers the course. If the issue remains unresolved, the appeal then goes to the dean of the college housing department for a final review.
If, on the other hand, you are facing a serious sanction from the Office of Student Conduct, the case is subject to a judicial committee hearing under rules set up in the Student Code of Conduct. Importantly, you have the right to bring an advisor to this hearing, and this advisor may be an attorney.
Joseph D. Lento: Academic Misconduct Attorney
Your education matters, and you can't afford to take risks with it. Any time you're charged with misconduct, you must challenge the accusation and raise questions about the punishment. That's not always easy to do. Judicial procedures can be complicated, and appeals take time. You don't have to do it alone, though.
Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who helps students nationwide in academic misconduct cases. Whether you're simply meeting with a professor to discuss their accusation or going before the dean to prove your innocence, Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento has handled hundreds of cases just like yours. He's a skilled negotiator and a tenacious fighter. Don't let your school trample your rights or impose penalties far out of proportion to your offense. If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct, contact the Lento Law Firm today.
Call 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.