College is a unique experience in our lives. For most of us, it's the first time we've been on our own, making our own decisions, setting our own rules, defining our own boundaries. As you might expect, this can be a bumpy road. We make mistakes, sometimes lots of mistakes.
Making a mistake, though, shouldn't jeopardize your future. You're young, you're still finding your way, you're supposed to screw up.
Unfortunately, a single allegation of academic misconduct can undo all the progress you've made in your life up to this point. It can cause you to lose scholarships, threaten your chances at graduate school, even interfere with your ability to get your first job.
Whether you've been unfairly accused or you're dealing with a penalty that's completely out of proportion to your mistake, you should never simply accept what's happening to you. Fight back. Know your rights and know how to find the right help to defend yourself.
Defining Academic Misconduct
What is academic misconduct exactly? It's misconduct that relates specifically to the classroom, anything that gives you an unfair advantage in your coursework or in pursuing your degree. The Seminole State College Student Code of Conduct identifies four specific types of academic misconduct:
- Cheating: Typically, cheating refers to the unauthorized use of materials to complete coursework. That might include something fairly straightforward, such as looking at a classmate's paper during an exam or Googling answers during a quiz. However, it can also include less obvious examples, like asking someone in an earlier section what's on the exam.
- Plagiarism: Most of us have a good general understanding of plagiarism. It's the use of someone else's ideas or expressions without giving them credit. Here again, though, in actual practice plagiarism can be complicated. Seminole State, for instance, prohibits something called self-plagiarism or turning in the same work to two different classes. In addition, plagiarism doesn't just apply to writing. You can plagiarize artwork, musical compositions, even computer code.
- Misrepresentation: To some extent, both cheating and plagiarism fall under the broader term “misrepresentation.” In addition, though, misrepresentation can involve actions like signing a friend's name on the daily attendance log or forging a doctor's note to get out of a quiz.
- Unauthorized possession of examination materials: Using unauthorized materials constitutes cheating, but Seminole State additionally forbids the unauthorized possession of course materials. This might apply, for example, to that file your fraternity keeps of all your professor's previous exams.
Justice Procedures at Seminole State College
For the most part, Seminole State gives classroom authority to its faculty. The Code of Conduct even notes, “Primary responsibility for managing the classroom environment and addressing academic dishonesty and classroom behavior rests with the faculty.” This means instructors have wide latitude for dealing with instances of academic misconduct. They have the right both to define it and to punish it as they see fit. In other words, just because your psych professor encourages you to find answers online doesn't mean your English professor thinks it's appropriate.
The Code goes on to suggest that instructors may use a variety of academic sanctions, including denying credit for an assignment or assigning a failing grade for the course.
However, students may also be subject to additional penalties. The Code mentions that serious breaches of the policy can garner “disciplinary” sanctions from the Student Conduct Officer, such as probation, suspension, and expulsion.
Your options for defending yourself against charges of misconduct vary on whether you're dealing with an academic sanction or a disciplinary sanction.
Disputing an academic sanction involves making a complaint up the chain of command. That is, students must first discuss the matter with their instructor. If this fails to resolve the issue, they may have an informal discussion with the faculty member's Dean. Students may also file a formal written appeal with the Dean. The next step up is a review by the Associate Vice President. Finally, if all other avenues have been exhausted, students may ask the Vice President for Academic Affairs to review their case. This official's decision, however, is final.
If the sanctions are disciplinary, then the student has the right to appeal the decision, or the sanction, or both, to the Disciplinary Review Committee, where they may present evidence and witnesses on their behalf. Students are entitled to bring an advisor to this hearing, though this advisor is not allowed to participate directly in the proceedings.
Finally, students may also appeal a Disciplinary Review Committee decision to the Vice President of Student Affairs.
Joseph D. Lento, National Academic Misconduct Attorney
University justice isn't always fair. Most schools tend to back their faculty's decisions in academic misconduct cases, and it can be hard to get a responsible determination or a sanction overturned. At Seminole State College, for example, there are no formal hearings into academic sanctions. Students must simply hope that one of their instructor's bosses will listen to their argument.
Just because it can be difficult, though, doesn't mean you shouldn't fight such charges. Instructors get it wrong, and they can sometimes be far too severe in their punishments. You can fight back, but you're going to need help.
Whether you're looking to overturn a professor's decision or negotiate a fairer sanction, Joseph D. Lento can be that help. Joseph D. Lento is an attorney, but he specializes in campus justice. He's represented hundreds of students across the United States, defending them from charges of academic misconduct and helping them restore their reputations. Joseph D. Lento is fully qualified to try cases in a court of law. He understands procedure, and he knows how to craft a winning defense strategy. At the same time, he is equally comfortable dealing with university bureaucracy, helping clients prepare for one-on-one meetings, or making arguments in front of disciplinary committees.
If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct by your college or university, don't just accept the accusation. Fight back. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or by using our automated online form.