The one rule to remember if you're a college student? Expect the unexpected. You can't know when your astronomy professor is going to spring a quiz on you; you can't know when a late-night study session is going to turn into a full-blown, four-alarm party; and you can't know when you might find yourself accused of cheating.
University faculty have become far too trigger-happy lately when it comes to leveling allegations against their students. And, once your school has you in its sights, it can be hard to prove your innocence. University disciplinary procedures are notoriously difficult to navigate, and most schools tend to side with the instructor in these cases.
How do you deal with a charge of academic misconduct? You don't wait until after it's happened to respond. You find out all you can now about your school's policies. You know the rules, and you know how to defend yourself if you should become a target. In short, you expect the unexpected, and you prepare for it.
Defining Academic Misconduct
You can't fight an allegation of academic misconduct if you don't understand the rules. You have to know what you're being accused of before you can craft a solid defense. As a bonus, knowing the rules will help you avoid making any silly mistakes as a student.
UMKC uses the same Student Code of Conduct as all schools in the University of Missouri system. You can find all the school's rules, including its academic rules, listed in policy 200.010. There, “academic dishonesty” is divided into three general categories.
- Cheating: UMKC lists a handful of specific examples of “cheating,” like looking at another person's answers during a quiz or stealing advanced copies of an exam. More broadly, cheating means using any unauthorized source to complete your coursework. Whether it's a book, a website, or another person, if your instructor hasn't approved it, you're probably cheating.
- Plagiarism: As with cheating, plagiarism is a broad term that can include a variety of activities. Obviously, you can't download a paper from an online paper mill and try to pass it off as your own. You also have to be careful, though, to give credit to all your sources when you write a paper.
- Sabotage: UMKC's Student Code of Conduct also lists sabotage as an important type of academic dishonesty. In simplest terms, you are prohibited from interfering with another person's coursework or intellectual property.
The Code of Conduct is careful to note that the terms “cheating,” “plagiarism,” and “sabotage” are not limited to the handful of examples it lists. In other words, UMKC reserves the right to accuse you of unspecified misbehavior as it sees fit. It isn't unusual, for instance, for students to find themselves accused of academic misconduct for forging a doctor's note or simply mistyping a citation in an essay. That means it's important you be careful. It also means, though, that you can easily wind up breaking a rule without meaning to. When that happens, you're going to need to know more than just the rules. You're going to need to know how to defend yourself.
Processes and Penalties
Like the rules themselves, UMKC's procedures for dealing with student misconduct are set by the University of Missouri System and are spelled out in a central document, policy 200.020. Again, getting justice can be a complicated affair.
Perhaps the most important phrase in the policy concerns who has authority in these cases: “In all cases of academic dishonesty, the instructor shall make an academic judgment about the student's grade on that work and in that course.” While it makes sense to put faculty on the front lines of finding and punishing classroom misconduct, the wording here puts a great deal of authority in the hands of a single individual. Your instructor can punish you with something fairly innocuous, like asking you to re-write the assignment, or they can level much harsher penalties, like a failing grade in the course. Ultimately, though, the decision is up to them.
The policy goes on to say that instructors must also report academic dishonesty to the school's Primary Administrative Officer. This Officer has the discretion to assign further sanctions if they feel the misconduct is especially serious or if you're a repeat offender. These extra sanctions can range from warnings and probation to suspension and expulsion.
If your case goes this far, you do have some clear options. Here's how the system works:
- The Administrative Officer must fully investigate the allegation before making any determination about responsibility or sanctions.
- The Administrative Officer can offer an “Informal Disposition” if they find you responsible for misconduct, and you can choose to accept this finding and any penalties.
- If you choose to dispute the Administrative Officer's findings or the sanctions, you have the right to a hearing before the Student Conduct Committee.
- If you disagree with the Committee's findings, you have the right to appeal the decision to the school's Chancellor. This administrator's findings, though, are final.
Curiously, the policy makes no mention of what to do if you dispute your instructor's initial decision or if you dispute the sanctions they assign. It only mentions what to do once your case has been turned over to an Administrative Officer. It may be that you could appeal your instructor's findings to the Student Conduct Committee. However, this is not spelled out in any UMKC policy.
Joseph D. Lento: Academic Misconduct Attorney
As should be clear by this point, defending yourself against a charge of academic misconduct can be complicated. Worse, there are aspects of the UMKC policy that are unclear. That leaves a lot of room for the school to make mistakes when it comes to dispensing justice. That means you need to know the rules; you need to know the procedures; you also need to know how to get help if you're being treated unfairly.
Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in academic misconduct cases. Whether you're simply meeting with a professor to discuss their accusation or going before the Student Conduct Committee to prove your innocence, Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento has handled hundreds of cases just like yours. He's a skilled negotiator and a tenacious fighter. Don't let your school trample your rights or impose penalties far out of proportion to your offense. If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct, contact the Lento Law Firm today.
Call 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.