You didn't enroll at Harvard because it has a great cafeteria. You enrolled at Harvard because you know you'll get the best possible education in dental medicine. And, if you got into Harvard, you know that getting that education is going to require a tremendous amount of work and a commitment to maintaining the highest academic, ethical, and professional standards.
All dental schools expect the best from their students. The fact is, as a dentist you won't just be expected to fix teeth. Your community will expect you to be an expert at what you do; they'll expect you to treat every patient with care and concern; they'll expect you to hold yourself to a moral and ethical code of conduct. Your school wants you to understand these demands before you enter the profession. As you might expect, though, Harvard goes to particular trouble to make sure you're clear about them.
No one's perfect, though, even Harvard students. While high standards are important, there's often a fine line between “high” and “impossible.” A mistake here and there shouldn't cost you your career. If you feel your school is holding you to a standard that's too high, or if you're being accused of something you simply didn't do, you not only have a right to raise questions—you have an obligation. That's not always easy. Dental schools can be reluctant to admit they've made a mistake. If you're going to challenge your program, you need to make sure you're well-prepared. You also need to make sure you have a professional on your side.
Academic Standards at Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM)
As noted in the dental school handbook, HSDM categorizes your performance in each course based on the percentage you earn in that course. Anything over 75 percent is considered a passing (P) grade. A percentage between 70 and 74 is designated a marginal passing (MP) grade. Anything below a 70 percent is treated as a failing (F) grade.
The Committee on Promotions meets twice each year to review student progress and recommend promotion. Students who fail a course are required to complete a remediation program for that course. The Committee can also require you to retake a course or a year if your work is consistently poor. In addition, the committee has the power to place you on Monitored Academic Status or Probation if you have too many MPs in a given year. Both designations mean the committee will scrutinize your coursework with even greater care. Finally, of course, the Committee can dismiss you if it feels you simply can't keep up with the rigors of the program.
It is worth noting that the handbook doesn't mention an appeals process for handling issues of academic standing. Harvard itself does have a grievance process for dealing with serious questions about faculty and administrative decisions. However, this process can be complex and difficult to navigate.
Maintaining Professional Standards
HSDM provides a long list of potential ethical and professional violations. That list includes everything from dishonesty to substance abuse to sexual misconduct. The bottom line is, you're expected to conduct yourself professionally any time you're in public, whether or not you're actually engaged in activities related to the school. In general, the sanctions for violations are far stricter than those for academic failings. Falling behind in class may get you a remediation plan or probation. If you should mistreat a patient or get a DUI, you'll very likely face dismissal from the program.
Most cases are handled through the Director of Student Affairs or the Director of Advanced Graduate Education. These officials then form a Screening Committee. If the Screening Committee determines there is cause for investigation, the school then appoints an independent factfinder. The case then goes before a Review Committee. Students are entitled to address the Committee and may bring their academic advisor. However, the Committee itself undertakes to review the evidence and call any witnesses.
Finally, students may appeal the Review Committee's decision to an ad hoc Appeals Board.
Why Hire an Attorney?
You may already have a sense at this point of why you might need the help of an attorney while you're in dental school. There's a great deal on the line. You don't have to be facing dismissal, though, to need a lawyer's help. An attorney who understands dental school policy and procedures can offer advice in all kinds of situations, large or small.
- Evaluating remediation plans: Remediation offers an important safety net if you fall behind in your studies. It can be costly, though, both in terms of time and money. As a result, you should always consult an attorney before signing on to a plan. Your school may tell you that you have no choice but to sign off on this plan; they may not explain that there are sometimes other, better options for remediation. An attorney will make you aware of all your choices and help you decide what's the best solution in your particular situation.
- Cleaning up your transcript: Remediation can also have long-lasting repercussions on your career, especially if it is noted in your permanent academic record. So too can sanctions like probation. In fact, even a warning can cost you financial aid, fellowships, and job opportunities if it's noted on your transcript. An attorney can explain how to keep these sanctions out of your record and may even be able to help you remove sanctions you received in the past.
- Avoiding dismissal: Of course, the most serious sanction you can face as a dental student is dismissal. For all practical purposes, a dismissal means the end of your career in dentistry. Few schools are willing to admit you if you already have a dismissal on your record. Even if you should find a spot in another program, you will likely have to start over. And should you finish, your original dismissal may still appear on your transcript. If you're facing dismissal, then you have nothing to lose by fighting it. It's vital, though, that you hire an attorney to help you build your case.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
An attorney can be useful in many situations that come up in dental school. Not just any attorney will do, though. You need an attorney who's worked with dental students, who understands how your program works, and who's had success helping clients protect their futures in dentistry.
Joseph D. Lento isn't just any attorney. He is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney, but he specializes in defending students in campus judicial cases. Over the years, Joseph D. Lento has represented hundreds of students, helping them get the justice they deserve. He knows the law, and he's a passionate defender of student rights. He also knows how schools operate and the tactics they use. Joseph D. Lento is ready to put what he knows to work for you and to get you the best possible resolution to your case.
If you're facing a sanction from your dental school, trust your case to someone who knows dental schools. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.