Founded nearly 150 years ago, in 1881, Howard University College of Dentistry (HUCD) is the fifth oldest dental school in the country. During that time, it's developed a reputation for excellence, not just in terms of academics but in terms of producing “distinguished, compassionate, culturally sensitive, socially conscious graduates with exemplary ethical standards.” Howard doesn't want to just graduate good dentists. It wants to graduate dentists who can serve as leaders in their communities.
“Exemplary” standards are noble. We all want our institutions of higher education to do everything in their power to prepare students to be professional, upstanding members of their communities. What happens, though, when standards are simply too high, when a school expects more from its students than they can reasonably deliver? Schools, even dental schools, can and do get things wrong sometimes. They accuse innocent students or assign penalties all out of proportion to the offenses.
If you're facing a situation like this, it's important you learn all you can about how your school deals with academic and professional conduct. Only when you know the expectations and the procedures can you hope to successfully defend yourself. In addition, though, it's important you find out how to get help. You can and should do everything you can to protect your academic and professional future, but you don't want to try and take on your school by yourself.
Academic Standards at HUCD
Despite its emphasis on ethics and professionalism, HUCD's academic expectations are high. Failing one class in a term is grounds for academic probation. Failing two is grounds for dismissal.
In keeping with these expectations, HUCD closely monitors its students' progress through their coursework. The school's Executive Committee meets at the end of each grading period to review every student's performance. In addition to sanctions like probation, the Committee also has the power to require students to repeat years if their performance is unsatisfactory.
You can, of course, appeal grades for any courses you fail. This can be a useful option if you're facing dismissal. In addition, you have the right to appeal a dismissal from HUCD to the school's Appeal Committee. As part of this process, you are allowed to address the Committee yourself and present your case.
Maintaining Professional Standards
Ultimately, though, HUCD's ethical and professional standards are, if anything, higher than its academic standards. In addition, ethical and professional lapses generally receive more severe sanctions.
The school's policy doesn't explain its code of conduct in concrete details, noting only that students must maintain “ethical and professional standards of conduct” and use “professional care towards patients” and that failing to do either will result in suspension or dismissal.
However, the American Dental Association's Code offers some insight into what Howard expects of its students. This twenty-four-page document deals with everything from how to treat patient records to rules for naming your practice. In particular, it's worth noting that its preamble suggests dentistry isn't just about following a code of ethics in the workplace. Rather, you're expected to maintain high ethical standards as a person. Put another way, HUCD can, and almost certainly will, dismiss you for personal problems such as a DUI or a domestic violence conviction.
Why Hire an Attorney?
You may wonder why you might need an attorney as a dental student. After all, you're smart and capable. You're dedicated to your profession and to getting your degree. On top of that, your school has your best interests at heart and would never do anything to damage your career prospects. Right?
The fact is, in today's political climate, schools can't afford to be seen as soft on academics or discipline. As a result, they take failure and misconduct very seriously and are quick to dismiss students for even small offenses.
You don't have to be facing such a serious sanction, though, to make good use of a qualified attorney. Attorneys who understand dental schools and are familiar with their procedures can help in lots of ways, big and small.
- Help with grade appeals: If you're facing an academic sanction from the Executive Committee, the best response might be simply to appeal the original grade. An attorney can help you gather evidence for this appeal. They can also assist in drafting the appeal itself and in coaching you on how to talk to your instructor.
- Cleaning up your transcript: Sanctions are costly in the short term and the long term. If a sanction—even a minor sanction like a warning—shows up on your transcript, it can interfere with your financial aid, prevent you from getting residencies and fellowships, and even hurt your chances at a good first job. An attorney can review your academic record with you and spot any potential problems. They also know strategies for getting negative evaluations removed.
- Fighting dismissal: Obviously, the most serious sanction you can face is dismissal. A dismissal doesn't just mean the end of your career at Howard; it likely means the end of your career in dentistry. It can be difficult to find another program willing to accept you if you already have a dismissal on your record. Thus, it's always in your best interest to fight any effort to expel you. An attorney can be invaluable in this fight. They can help you formulate a defense strategy, gather evidence, draft documents, and practice presentations. Most importantly, they can make sure the school respects your due process rights.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
By now, you should have a sense of some of the many ways an attorney can help make your years in dental school more productive. It's important you recognize, though, that not just any attorney will do. You need an attorney who has experience serving as a student advisor, who knows how dental schools operate, and who has a proven track record in helping clients get the justice they deserve.
You need Joseph D. Lento. Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney with a unique background. He built his career fighting for student rights. Over the years, Joseph D. Lento has represented hundreds of students, just like you, helping them protect their academic and professional futures. He knows the law and how it applies to dental schools. 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.