Handling Academic Misconduct Accusations at Western Carolina University

Once upon a time, the worst thing that could happen to you if you cheated on a test was that you might get a stern lecture from the Dean. Those days are long gone. You can expect your university to take any violations of the academic integrity policy seriously, and that means you need to take every accusation seriously.

What does taking an accusation seriously mean? It means knowing the rules and having a working knowledge of the judicial procedures your school uses in these cases. It also means getting professional help building your defense. Understanding what you're up against is a great start to fighting charges, but an attorney-advisor will have the expertise you don't. They'll know how to draft air-tight appeals, how to organize evidence, and what kind of questions to ask witnesses.

So, do your research. Make sure you're absolutely prepared for what you're facing. But also make sure you have an attorney on your side to advise you as you go through the process.

Defining Academic Misconduct at Western Carolina University

In simple terms, academic misconduct has to do with infractions related to coursework. Western Carolina University adds to this broad definition by noting in its Academic Integrity policy that academic misconduct “is a serious offense because it threatens the quality of scholarship and undermines the integrity of the community.”

What does all of this mean in concrete terms, though? WCU also offers a list of five specific types of misconduct.

  • Cheating: This involves the use of unauthorized materials to complete coursework. “Unauthorized materials” is a broad term and can include anything from looking at another student's paper during a quiz to texting your roommate for answers during an exam.
  • Fabrication: This means making up material for an academic exercise. It includes inventing sources for papers and creating fictional lab reports for experiments you never actually did.
  • Plagiarism: Attempting to pass another person's words or ideas off as your own. Keep in mind that plagiarism doesn't just apply to text. You can be accused of plagiarizing images, videos, music, and even computer code.
  • Self-plagiarism: Basically, you can't turn the same work in to multiple classes unless both instructors have authorized you to do so.
  • Facilitation: WCU also wants you to know that helping someone commit misconduct makes you just as culpable as the person who's actually getting the benefit of the misconduct.

Finally, it's also important to note that your instructor is the ultimate authority when it comes to course rules. Can you use your book during an exam? The answer depends on the course and the instructor. You'll find most course rules listed in your syllabus, but when in doubt, it's always a good idea to ask.

Sanctions and Procedures

In addition to setting the rules in your course, your instructor also has the primary responsibility for identifying and responding to instances of misconduct. Any time they suspect misconduct, they must provide you with written notice detailing the allegation and describing the proposed punishment or sanction. Sanctions can include

  • Verbal or written warning
  • Makeup assignment or revision of the original assignment
  • Extra assignment on the nature of academic integrity
  • Lowered grade on the original assignment, up to a zero
  • Lowered grade in the course, up to an F

You can, of course, simply accept the charge against you and whatever punishment comes with it. However, you have the right to challenge your instructor's decisions. The appeals process involves moving through the hierarchy of WCU's administration.

  • First, you must meet with your instructor and try to come to a resolution.
  • If you cannot reach some sort of accommodation with your instructor, you may then appeal to the head of the department that houses the course. The appeal itself involves submitting a written document and then meeting with the head. Your instructor may also be present at this meeting.
  • If you cannot resolve the matter with the department head, you may further appeal your case to the Dean of the college that hosts the course department. The Dean schedules a hearing before the school's Academic Integrity Board. Here you may make arguments, submit evidence, and call witnesses. Again, your instructor has the right to attend this hearing and to respond to your evidence.
  • Finally, you may appeal the Integrity Board's decision to the Dean, but only under certain very limited conditions. These include
    • A violation of your due process rights
    • A deviation from procedural standards

WCU faculty are required to report all incidents to their department head. The school maintains records of all infractions and punishes additional and particularly egregious policy violations with harsher sanctions. These can include probation, suspension, and expulsion. However, only the Vice Chancellor can impose these penalties, and they can only do so after a disciplinary hearing under the terms of the Student Code of Conduct.

Joseph D. Lento, Student Conduct Attorney-Advisor

Students don't always take accusations of academic misconduct seriously, even when they're completely innocent. The appeals process is complicated. Your school may tend to side with faculty in these matters. Some students are afraid that challenging their instructors will wind up creating more problems than it solves.

You should never simply accept an accusation or a sanction, though. Instructors can and do make mistakes. Too many impose sanctions that far outweigh actual offenses. More importantly, any sanction, even a warning, can have serious repercussions on your future. A warning placed in your academic file can cause you to lose scholarships; it can prevent you from getting into graduate school; it might even come up during job interviews.

It's always better to fight for your reputation. Make sure you have someone on your side to help you with that fight, though.

Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified, fully-licensed defense attorney who focuses specifically on student misconduct cases. He's devoted his career to making sure students are treated fairly and that they get all the rights they're entitled to. Joseph D. Lento has represented literally hundreds of clients just like you, helping them defend themselves from all kinds of accusations, from simple cheating on a test to complicated plagiarism schemes. Joseph D. Lento knows how your school operates. He's also familiar with your school's judicial procedures and experienced at dealing with faculty and administrators. If you're a student looking to take on your school, you need the best representation you can find. You need Joseph D. Lento.

If you've been accused of any type of academic misconduct, contact Joseph D. Lento today to find out how he can help. Call 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.

Contact Us Today!

If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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