Academic dishonesty seems to be reaching epidemic proportions as students uncover more and more ways to misuse technology. Frankly, it's more than a little disheartening to think that fellow students might be taking advantage of online classes or misusing technology to get an unfair advantage. More importantly, when other students cheat, it can devalue your degree.
Here's the thing, though: With all the talk about a rise in cheating, faculty seem to have become just a little too paranoid lately. Instructors have begun to see “misconduct” in perfectly innocent mistakes and to dole out punishments that far exceed crimes.
If you're one of the students who's been caught up in this rush to judgment, it's important you know how to defend yourself. Know exactly how your school defines academic misconduct. Know what procedures it uses to resolve cases. Most importantly, know where to find help if you need it.
Defining Academic Misconduct
Cleveland State is a good example of a school that seems to be taking academic misconduct just a little too seriously. Where many schools' policies list two or three kinds of violations, CSU's policy on academic misconduct lists eight. Here's what you need to know about each one.
- Cheating: The school lists several different examples of cheating. In simplest terms, though, cheating means using any type of unauthorized source to complete your coursework. That source could be another person, a website, or a book. It's all cheating.
- Plagiarism: Plagiarism involves attempting to pass another person's words or ideas off as your own without giving them credit. Buying a paper online qualifies. Using a quote without quotation marks and a citation does too.
- Fabrication: This covers things like falsifying lab report data or making up a source in a paper.
- Unauthorized Collaboration: This seems to be a more specific type of cheating. Basically, you can't work with others unless you have express permission from your instructor.
- Sharing Login Credentials: CSU would prefer you not share your passwords with others.
- Misrepresentation: This one covers things like signing a classmate's name on the attendance sheet and forging a doctor's note to get out of a test.
- Gaining an Unfair Advantage: This one seems like a catchall for all academic misconduct. In general, you're expected to earn your grades the old-fashioned way.
- Bribery: Finally, the school wants you to know that you can't pay for your grades.
Though the full policy goes on for some nine pages, CSU is careful to note that academic misconduct is “not limited” to this list. Rather, the school reserves the right to call violations as it sees them. In addition, it's worth noting that attempting to break a rule is treated the same as actually breaking a rule, and helping someone else commit misconduct is treated the same as doing it yourself.
Procedures and Penalties
Cleveland State University is somewhat unique in how it responds to academic misconduct. First, while instructors have the primary responsibility for identifying violations, they do not deal with accused students directly. Instead, all allegations are referred to the school's Community Standards Officer. This person then assigns the violation a level:
- Minor Infractions: Occur on individual assessments worth not more than 20 percent of your grade
- Major Infractions: Occur on individual assessments worth twenty percent or more of your grade
- Program Infractions: Occur when the infraction affects the integrity of your degree program.
Penalties, then, are based on level, though the policy is silent on what types of sanctions are assigned at each level. Most colleges and universities punish academic misconduct with a wide range of penalties, from make-up assignments to lowered grades, course failure to expulsion.
In addition, you should know that two or more infractions add up to a major infraction.
Perhaps more important than possible sanctions, though, is how to go about defending yourself if you are accused. The good news is, you do have the right to appeal your instructor's determination.
- The first step in the appeals process is an appeal to the Chair of the department that offers the course. The Chair should convene a meeting to hear from both you and the instructor.
- Should you wish to appeal the Chair's decision, you may do so to the Dean. The procedure is the same as before. Once again, you and the instructor are invited to present your cases, this time before the Dean.
- Finally, if you disagree with the Dean's decision, you have the right to appeal it to the school's Academic Misconduct Review Committee (AMRC). The AMRC is made up of two faculty members and one student. Decisions are based on a majority vote of the committee members and cannot be appealed further.
Joseph D. Lento Knows Academic Misconduct Cases
It's not easy to fight an allegation of academic misconduct. Maybe that's why so few students actually bother to do so. Sometimes it just seems easier to accept the punishment and move on, even if you're innocent. That's never a good idea, though. Even Minor Infractions can wind up being reported on your academic record. Even if all that happens in the short term is that you have to re-write a paper, you could wind up paying a higher price later on. Academic misconduct accusations can cost you scholarships, keep you from getting into graduate school, and even hurt your chances at employment.
Don't let an unfounded accusation derail your future. Take every accusation seriously, and fight for your rights.
Joseph D. Lento can help you do just that. Joseph D. Lento is an attorney, but he specializes in handling academic misconduct cases at the college and university level. He's built his career, in fact, on helping students just like you fight baseless charges and negotiate fair settlements with their schools. No case is too big or too small. Joseph D. Lento is comfortable talking one-on-one with your course instructor or standing up for you in front of a formal hearing.
If you've been accused of academic misconduct, make sure you have Joseph D. Lento on your side. Call 888-555-3686 to find out more or use our automated online form.