Sometimes it seems like it's getting harder and harder not to be accused of cheating. Our current educational system was not built to operate in a digital world, and it doesn't always take into account the fact that answers are so readily available at the push of button. Forget “resisting temptation”: often you actually have to work pretty hard to make sure you don't see something you shouldn't.
It's no surprise, then, that cheating is on the rise in recent years, or that colleges and universities have become increasingly draconian in how they investigate and punish academic misconduct. Here's the thing, though: a rise in cases is no excuse for schools to make false accusations or assign unjust sanctions. Just because they've developed itchy trigger fingers is no reason you should have to suffer.
So, take the time to find out how your university treats academic misconduct. Learn how to avoid getting into trouble, but also know what to do if trouble should come looking for you. It may sound trite, but it's still true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
How Vincennes University Does Academic Integrity
Every school defines academic integrity in its own particular way. Of course, they all essentially agree that no student should be allowed to gain an unfair academic advantage over others and that a university degree should guarantee a student's knowledge. Some schools, though, try to list every possible kind of misconduct you need to avoid. Others, like Vincennes, offer a much more general summary.
In fact, VU only really mentions three sorts of academic misconduct:
- Cheating: Cheating is simply defined as the use of unauthorized information or resources to complete coursework. Presumably, this would cover anything from copying someone else's homework to using sophisticated texting schemes to get answers during an exam.
- Plagiarism: Here again, the definition is relatively straightforward. Plagiarism means “presenting someone else's work, including the work of other students, as one's own.”
- Other forms of academic dishonesty: Here, Vincennes mentions such behaviors as turning in the same work to multiple classes, and providing false information to an instructor.
Students love it when the instructions are short and simple. When it comes to behavioral rules, though, short instructions can put you at a significant disadvantage. The fact is, Vincennes' list of violations is so vague that it leaves open the possibility you might be accused without even realizing you've done anything wrong. For instance, if you forget to include quotation marks around a quote in your English paper, are you guilty of a mere typo, or can you be charged with plagiarism? Likewise, what exactly defines “false information.” Can you be suspended, or worse, for pretending to be sick in order to skip a class?
Obviously, you want to maintain as much integrity as you can as a student. A university lives and dies on its reputation, and you won't find it easy getting a job if your school has a reputation for cheating. At the same time, not every accusation of misconduct is as cut and dried as it seems, and it's important you consider what to do if you should find yourself accused of something that doesn't seem like it should even be a violation.
Fighting an Allegation
What do you do if you're facing an unfair allegation? The answers at Vincennes are complicated.
The school's academic integrity policy gives disciplinary authority almost entirely to instructors: “The instructor will determine appropriate disciplinary action” so long as it is consistent with their syllabus. This places no limitations on what kind of sanctions instructors can assign, and doesn't offer any immediate suggestions as to how you might fight a false accusation.
Instructors are entitled to report academic misconduct to the Dean of Students for additional disciplinary action if they so choose. Disciplinary sanctions can include anything from a verbal warning to expulsion. Vincennes does have a process in place for challenging such sanctions:
- A hearing at which you may present evidence in your defense
- An appeals hearing with the Student Life Advisory Committee, where you can argue why your initial hearing's decision is wrong
- An appeal of the Student Life Advisory Committee's decision to the Provost
If, however, you want to dispute the instructor's original accusation, the process isn't as clearly defined. Apparently, doing so would require going through the school's “grievance process.” This involves:
- Meeting with the instructor and trying to work out a solution
- Asking the instructor's supervisor to investigate the dispute and render a decision
- Potentially appealing each new decision up the administrative chain, all the way to the President.
The grievance policy does not indicate just how many appeals are possible. Nor does it address the fact that single individuals with a vested interest in supporting those below them are solely responsible for ruling at each level of appeal.
Joseph D. Lento, Academic Misconduct Attorney
Lots of students never question academic misconduct allegations made against them. They just accept their punishment and try to move on. You can understand why. The process is confusing, and there are a number of elements of that process that put students who are trying to clear their names at a distinct disadvantage. Why bother?
The fact is, it is essential that you challenge any judgments against you, even if the sanctions are relatively light. A record of academic misconduct can follow you around for the rest of your academic career and can even cause problems later on, in your professional life. Accusations can wind up in your permanent university record, and that can cost you scholarships or internships, prevent you from getting into graduate schools, and interfere with your ability to get jobs.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento is a highly experienced attorney who specializes in college and university misconduct cases. He has served as advisor to hundreds of students across the United States, helping hem get the justice they deserved. Whether you're entirely innocent or just looking to get a fair deal, you can effectively fight back, and you can win.
If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct, don't wait. Act now to protect your future. Contact the Lento Law Firm, today, at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form