Colleges and universities take academic integrity seriously. That's a good thing. Schools live and die on their reputations. Employers aren't anxious to hire graduates from places that have a reputation for cheating, and the better your school's reputation, the better chance you have of getting a good job with a good salary.
However, sometimes, though, there's a fine line between taking academic integrity seriously and downright paranoia. There's been a lot of talk recently about a rise in cheating. Whether that's true or not, schools certainly think it is. Faculty have increasingly trigger-happy of late, and the penalties they tend to assign have gotten all out of proportion to the actual offenses.
You can't be sure what might happen to you if you should wind up accused. Suspension and expulsion aren't out of the question. In fact, even a warning could cause you trouble down the road if it should wind up in your permanent file. Take the time now, then, to know the rules and to find out what to do if you should find yourself in trouble.
How Marshall University Defines Academic Misconduct
Every college and university treats academic integrity just a little differently. Marshall University's Policies and Resources lists five “common types of academic dishonesty”:
- Cheating: MU's definition here is about as wide-ranging as it could be. Basically, the policy says that any behavior an instructor prohibits or might prohibit if they knew about it qualifies as “cheating.” In practical terms, “cheating” usually means the use of unauthorized resources to complete your coursework, but the fact is that your instructor has broad authority to accuse you of cheating for almost anything.
- Plagiarism: This refers to the attempt to pass another person's work or ideas off as your own. As the policy points out, you can be accused of plagiarism simply for failing to properly cite your sources. In addition, you should know that plagiarism doesn't just apply to text. You can plagiarize music, images, and even computer code. In fact, many instructors will punish you for grabbing online images and using them in your papers without proper citations.
- Fabrication: Again, this one is pretty broad. You're barred from inventing citations or data in your work. You can also be accused of lesser crimes, such as forging a doctor's note or signing a classmate's name to the daily attendance sheet.
- Bribes/ Favors/ Threats: Attempting to use any of these to get a higher grade or in any way influence degree requirements is absolutely considered academic misconduct.
- Complicity: Finally, MU wants you to know that helping someone else commit academic misconduct is its own form of academic misconduct.
As several parts of this policy suggest, you can't take anything for granted. MU gives faculty enormous authority in their own classrooms. This is one reason why it's important to have someone on your side if you find yourself accused of a violation. You need someone who can protect your rights and ensure you're being treated fairly.
Procedures and Sanctions
If you're going to defend yourself from a charge of academic dishonesty, you need to know exactly how your school handles such cases. Who makes the initial accusation? Who decides what sanction to give you? What are the procedures for appealing these decisions?
For the most part, instructors have primary responsibility for identifying, investigating, and punishing instances of academic misconduct, though department chairs and the Academic Dean can also level accusations. Your instructor is not required to meet with you or discuss their decision. Rather they can decide you are guilty and assign a sanction at their discretion. Possible sanctions include
- Warning letter
- Retake or replacement assignment
- Lowered grade or no credit on the assignment
- Exclusion from class activities
- Reduction in course grade or failure
- Temporary prohibition from retaking the course
While they don't have to get your side of the story, your instructor is required to issue you a written notification of the charges. They are also required to send a copy of this notification to the Office of Academic Affairs. This office keeps a record of all misconduct and has the authority to assign additional sanctions for particularly egregious or repeat offenses. These sanctions can include
You do have the right to appeal your instructor's decisions, both in terms of the allegation itself and the sanction. The process for making this appeal follows the basic MU chain of command.
- You may appeal to the department chair, who will hold a meeting with both you and the instructor
- If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome, you may additionally appeal to the academic dean of the college that hosts the department
- You can further appeal the academic dean's decision to the University Academic Appeals Board. If this group deems the appeal to have merit, they will convene a hearing panel to consider the case.
- Finally, you can further appeal the Academic Appeals Board's decision to the school's Chief Academic Officer. This official's decision, however, is final.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Students don't always contest the charges against them. It's not easy to put together a defense, gather documentation, fill out appeals forms, and prepare presentations. It might seem easier to just accept the 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.