College isn't like what it used to be. There once was a time when a professor might catch you peeking at a classmate's paper during an exam, call you into their office, listen to you swear on your mother's life never to do it again, and let you go with a stern warning. No longer.
These days, if you even think about cheating, you can expect a full investigation followed by the harshest sanctions your university can think up.
Here's the thing: Instructors don't always get it right. They can, and do, accuse innocent students sometimes. And while no one would ever suggest that it's OK to buy term papers online, we all make mistakes from time to time. That doesn't mean our entire future should suddenly be put in jeopardy.
If you've been accused of academic misconduct of any type, you may be feeling overwhelmed. It's no easy task to take on your school. You don't have to do it alone, though. Start here and find out everything you can about what you're facing. Then, find out how to get help.
Defining Academic Misconduct
Maybe you're familiar with UCO's integrity policy. It's fairly strict: “Students are expected to maintain complete honesty and integrity” and “to engage in all academic pursuits in a manner that is above reproach.” What does that mean in practical, concrete terms, though?
In keeping with the tone of the policy, UCO actually lists eighteen different types of academic violations. These include everything from “Knowingly and without authorization, using, buying, selling, stealing, transporting, soliciting, copying or possessing in whole or in part, the contents of an examination” to trying to bribe your professor to change your grade. For the most part, though, this list of eighteen can be reduced to a few basic prohibitions.
- Cheating: In the strictest sense, cheating refers to the use of any unauthorized material to complete your coursework. That means you can't ask someone else to take a test for you, you can't look up answers on Google, and crib sheets are expressly forbidden.
- Plagiarism: Plagiarism involves attempting to pass another person's work or ideas off as your own without giving them proper credit. Obviously, it applies to downloading a paper from the internet. However, you can also plagiarize music, images, and even computer code.
- Falsification: Again, this single category covers a multitude of sins, from making up lab experiment data to forging a doctor's note to get out of taking a quiz.
In general, all of UCO's rules have one purpose: to make sure you don't obtain an unfair advantage in completing your coursework or obtaining your degree. If you keep that principle in mind, you can avoid most problems.
Facing an Accusation
Your instructor has the primary responsibility for identifying academic misconduct and deciding on sanctions. They are supposed to
- Meet with you to get your side of the situation
- Decide whether or not to initiate disciplinary action
- Assign a penalty as necessary
- Report the incident to the Office of Student Conduct
Sanctions can include:
- A make-up or substitute assignment
- A reduced grade on the assignment
- A zero on the assignment
- Failure in the course
The Office of Student Conduct maintains records of all offenses and reserves the right to assign additional penalties for particularly egregious or repeat violations. These can include probation, suspension, and expulsion.
If you accept responsibility for a violation and you accept your instructor's proposed sanction, the justice process works pretty smoothly. What happens, though, if you decide to raise questions about the allegation or to protest your punishment?
Basically, you have two options.
- Accuse your instructor of violating professional ethics: If you believe your professor has deliberately mistreated you, you have the right to report their behavior to the department chair.
- Appeal your grade: You may also appeal your final grade in the course to the Board of Academic Appeals.
UCO's policy doesn't offer many options for getting justice. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to establish that a faculty member violated professional ethics in accusing you of academic misconduct. Defending yourself in this case isn't about proving your innocence. It's about proving your instructor set out to sabotage you. That's a pretty high bar.
When it comes to appealing your grade, the policy's language is equally restrictive. You must believe “the practices and procedures used to determine [your] final grade were not consistently and/or accurately followed.” Again, that's not the same as claiming you are innocent of the charges. It's about whether or not your instructor followed procedure. That wording leaves open the possibility that you might be falsely accused and still not be able to get justice.
Joseph D. Lento, Academic Misconduct Advisor
By this point, you should have a pretty good sense of what you're up against if you've been accused of academic misconduct. Penalties can be severe, and it's not always easy to get a fair hearing.
You can and should protest any accusation against you and every proposed sanction. Never simply accept your school's decisions just because it seems like it might be hard to fight them. Even a warning can affect your academic future if it winds up in your permanent file. However, you're going to need help. Once you've been accused of misconduct, your school is not on your side. It will do everything it can to prove you are guilty, and it will assign you the harshest penalties it can.
Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in defending student clients. Over the years, he's helped hundreds of students just like you defend themselves from all types of academic misconduct charges, big and small. As an attorney, Joseph D. Lento is highly adept at making arguments and crafting defense strategies. He also understands the intricacies of campus justice procedures. He knows the kinds of tactics your school will use against you, and he knows how to fight them.
If you've been accused of academic misconduct, don't wait. Contact Joseph D. Lento today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.