You may have noticed: college professors these days have gotten a little trigger-happy when it comes to cheating allegations. They seem to see plagiarism around every corner, and when they've got someone in their sights, they can be ruthless. You can wind up failing a class or even being dismissed from the university entirely.
Maybe you're completely innocent. But you wouldn't be the first student to make a mistake either. College is tough, and you have a lot you're trying to balance. It would make sense if you decided you needed a little extra help. Should one slip-up ruin your entire future? Don't let it. Challenge your instructors' accusations; fight the sanctions they hand out.
The first step is to find out all you can about how your school handles academic integrity violations. The more you know, the better prepared you'll be to defend yourself. Once you've done that, though, make sure you contact a qualified, experienced attorney-advisor. You don't want to head into a conduct hearing unprepared; you also don't want to go in alone.
Defining Academic Misconduct
Universities take academic integrity extremely seriously. You can understand why. A school lives and dies on its reputation, and graduates won't do well on the job market if their school has developed a reputation for dishonesty.
Every school defines academic misconduct just a little differently. SIU-C, for instance, treats it just like any other sort of misconduct. In fact, the Student Code of Conduct lists academic misconduct right next to sexual misconduct and general misconduct.
In more concrete terms, the Code lists seven individual types of academic violations:
- Plagiarism: Attempting to present another person's work as your own
- Preparing work for another student: Completing coursework you know will be presented as another student's work
- Sharing unauthorized course materials: Disseminating materials such as tests, slides, or recordings without express approval from your instructor
- Fabrication: Inventing sources or manufacturing data as part of an academic exercise
- Unauthorized collaboration: Working with others to complete your coursework, without prior approval
- General dishonesty: Attempting to “subvert” the education process “by any means whatsoever.”
- Involvement in misconduct: Helping others to commit academic misconduct or attempting to commit misconduct even if you do not actually succeed
It is worth noting just how general some of these prohibitions are. This suggests that instructors have wide latitude to make accusations and that the school will back them up. It's one reason why you should hire a legal expert to consult on your case, someone who can help you construct a strong argument for your innocence.
Judicial Procedures at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
Another important reason why you need an attorney at your side? The procedures governing academic misconduct at SIU-C can be a little tricky.
Instructors have primary responsibility for identifying and responding to violations of academic integrity. They are supposed to provide you with written notice of the charges if they suspect you of an offense.
You must then respond with a written notice explaining whether you accept or reject the charges. The problem is, you have no way of knowing what sanction your instructor may assign if you accept responsibility. In other words, you must make your decision blindly in regard to its repercussions.
Should you accept responsibility, you meet with your instructor to offer any evidence that might mitigate the seriousness of your offense. The instructor then assigns a sanction and sends an official notice to the department Chair, the college Dean, and the Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities (SRR). If you admit to the offense, you cannot appeal your guilt, though you may still appeal the severity of the penalty.
Sanctions generally range from verbal warnings to lowered grades on the assignments in question to lowered course grades, including failure. However, the Director of SRR has the authority to issue stronger sanctions—probation, suspension, expulsion—for multiple offenses.
Should you refute the allegations, you are entitled to present your case before the Dean of the relevant college.
- You may introduce evidence at this conference and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. Your instructor may do the same.
- You have the right to an advisor, who may be an attorney. However, you must present your case yourself. Your advisor may not participate directly in proceedings.
- All cases are decided using a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” Basically, the Dean must find you “Responsible” (guilty) if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed a violation.
You can appeal the Dean's decision to the SRR. Doing so involves participating in another administrative conference. Appeals are only heard for:
- Procedural errors
- New evidence
- Disproportionate sanction
Joseph D. Lento, Student Conduct Attorney-Advisor
Students don't always challenge their instructor's decisions, even when they are entirely innocent of the charges. It's not easy to take on your school, especially when doing so involves filing paperwork, gathering evidence, and putting together presentations. Sometimes, it just seems easier to accept the punishment, especially if the punishment is “light.”
Here's the problem with that line of thinking. There are no “light” punishments. Even a warning can cause long-term consequences if it shows up in your academic file. A notation about cheating can cost you scholarships, prevent you from getting into graduate school, and even interfere with your initial job applications. You can't afford to take any accusation lightly. You need to know exactly what you're facing, and you need to have help dealing with it.
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.