Sometimes it seems like it's getting harder and harder not to cheat in college. Certainly it's gotten more difficult to tell the dividing line between following course guidelines and committing academic misconduct. Professors these days like to emphasize group work; they probably also have strict policies against collaborating with your classmates. You're expected to find answers for yourself, and that means using Google; use it the wrong way, though, and you can be accused of dishonesty.
If you find yourself confused by all these rules, you're not alone. Every year, thousands of students are accused of academic misconduct. Sometimes they're completely innocent. Sometimes they just misunderstood the rules. In some cases, they may have made a mistake, but they're being punished far more harshly than their offense deserves.
You do have the right to challenge your instructors' decisions and to question the sanctions they give you. Sure, that can be a daunting proposition. You're used to seeing them as the authority figure, and the school will likely back them up. You don't have to fight this battle alone, though. A qualified, experienced attorney-advisor can help you prepare your case and make sure you're treated fairly.
Defining Academic Misconduct
Preparing your defense starts with knowing exactly what you've been charged with doing. TSU's policy on Academic Conduct lists five specific types of violations, any one of which could get you into trouble.
- Cheating: Often, this word gets used generically to refer to all types of academic dishonesty. In fact, it refers to the use of unauthorized materials in completing your coursework. “Unauthorized materials” can include anything from crib notes you've smuggled into an exam to a classmate from another section who tells you what to expect on a quiz.
- Plagiarism: “Plagiarism” refers to the attempt to pass off another person's work or ideas as your own. Of course, you know you're not supposed to buy term papers from online paper mills. Plagiarism isn't always so obvious, though. You can be accused of failing to properly cite a source or for using an image you found online without noting where you found it.
- Unauthorized use of technology: Technically, this is a form of “cheating,” but TSU wants you to know that using digital means to cheat is still cheating.
- Abuse of resource materials: This involves destroying, mutilating, concealing, or stealing school materials, including copies of tests and library books.
- Collusion: Finally, TSU also wants to make clear that helping someone else to commit academic misconduct counts as a form of misconduct.
Finally, it's worth noting that this list is not conclusive. That is, your professor may hold you accountable for other rules as well. This is one reason why it can be so important to have an attorney-advisor. They can help you make sense of accusations and offer advice on how to counter them.
Procedures and Sanctions
Just as you need to know the rules at your school, you also need to know what procedures are in place for defending yourself when you're accused of breaking one.
At Tarleton State University, instructors have the primary responsibility for identifying and investigating misconduct. They also have the authority to determine whether or not you are responsible for a violation and what sanction should apply. Typical “academic” sanctions include:
- Verbal or written warnings
- Resubmissions or makeup assignments
- A lowered grade on the assignment in question, up to a zero
- Educational assignments on the nature of academic integrity
- A lowered grade in the course, up to an F
Faculty are supposed to make a good faith effort to inform you of their accusations and give you a chance to respond.
In addition, they are required to report all infractions to the department head, the appropriate academic dean, the provost, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the Dean of Student Affairs. The Dean of Student Affairs is responsible for maintaining records of all offenses and can assign additional “disciplinary” penalties to repeat offenders. These can include:
- Loss of privileges
- Assigned tasks
- Revocation of a degree
You are entitled to appeal your instructor's decisions and any actions taken by the Dean of Academic Affairs. This includes questioning the allegation itself and/or the severity of any sanctions that have been imposed.
- Academic appeals involve
- Asking the instructor to review their decision and respond in writing
- Asking the department head to review the decision
- Asking the dean of the appropriate college to review the decision
Note that each department may establish additional grievance procedures to deal with academic appeals to the department head.
- Disciplinary appeals involve participating in a Student Conduct Conference before a Student Conduct Officer. This individual has the sole authority to decide the final outcome of the case.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Students don't always contest the charges against them. The prospect of questioning a faculty member's decision can seem scary. Procedures are complicated and take time. Rather than face all that, many students just accept their punishment, especially if that punishment seems relatively minor.
Here's the problem with that thinking. There are no minor punishments. Even a warning can cause long-term problems if it winds up in your academic file. A record of misconduct could cost you scholarships, keep you from applying for internships and fellowships, and even interfere with your ability to get a good first job. If you've been accused, don't take it lightly. Fight for your reputation and your academic future.
Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney. That means he knows how to construct air-tight arguments, organize evidence, and cross-examine witnesses. Day-to-day, though, he applies those skills to help get justice for students like you. Joseph D. Lento knows the law and particularly how it applies to higher education. He also knows how to communicate effectively with faculty and administrators. Whether you've been charged with something big, like coordinating a large-scale cheating conspiracy, or small, like forgetting to cite a source in a paper, Joseph D. Lento is ready to help you get the very best possible resolution to your case.
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.