Colleges and universities across America have become a major draw for students worldwide over the years. Currently, at least 1 million international students are attending institutes of higher education across the United States. But when an international student gets accused of academic misconduct or violations of other student conduct policies, the dream of a prestigious degree can quickly turn into a nightmare. Often unaware of our cultural norms, legal structures, and the American approach to student discipline, an international student can quickly become overwhelmed. Without help, the student may face unfair discipline, negative academic marks, or even expulsion.
If you're an international student facing disciplinary action from a school you're attending here in the states, you need an experienced attorney advisor by your side who knows the system and can guide you through the process. Doing so could result in a more favorable outcome and possibly even rescue your career prospects.
Are International Students More Likely to Deal with Misconduct Allegations?
It may seem unfair—and probably is—but research shows that in American schools, international students have a higher probability of being accused of wrongdoing, especially on an academic level. Why are international students more susceptible to these allegations? There may be several factors at work, including:
- Cultural construct differences. For example, the concept of what constitutes “cheating” in Western culture doesn't always match up with that of other cultures. Without being properly oriented, international students sometimes find themselves in violation of school academic policies without realizing it.
- Latent xenophobia. Americans can sometimes be naturally suspicious of foreigners. Even on college/university campuses where diversity is promoted, people may view international students with greater scrutiny, even if unintentionally.
- Language barriers. Even for students who are fluent in English, sometimes words and phrases carry underlying meanings, even in different parts of the country, that an international student won't immediately grasp. Many international student issues occur as a simple matter of miscommunicating or being misunderstood.
Common Disciplinary Issues and Other Concerns International Students Face
International students may find themselves facing conflict with a school over various issues, some more prevalent than others. Some of the most common may include the following:
- Academic Dishonesty/Cheating/Plagiarism
- Student Misconduct
- Title IX Allegations (i.e., Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Similar Concerns)
- Tuition Issues
- Professionalism Concerns
Every school will have slightly different structures in place for handling these concerns, but if the student doesn't have a clear understanding of his/her rights and how the process works, the chances of a negative outcome are more likely. Additionally, some consequences, such as suspension, can put student visas in jeopardy. With stakes this high, it is crucial to have an experienced attorney in your corner.
Of all the most common issues international students get accused of, cheating appears to be the most prevalent—and among the various kinds of cheating, plagiarism is one of the most frequent accusations. A huge factor in this trend may be the fact that the concept of plagiarism is different by American standards than in other nations—and in some countries, the idea may be altogether absent. Therefore, some international students may be more prone to get on the wrong side of the rules without realizing it.
Other Student Misconduct
Every school has its own Code of Conduct that students are expected to know and to abide by. Violations of school codes may result in disciplinary hearings and sanctions, having a negative impact on the international student's academic career. Common student misconduct charges may include:
- Alcohol or drugs on campus
- Social media, Internet violations, or cyber crimes
- Cyberbullying and cyberstalking
- Breaking and entering
Title IX Charges
Here in the U.S., federal law dictates how schools handle allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct (known as Title IX complaints). Allegations of sexual misconduct are addressed by a separate school office according to federal rules. International students accused of sexual misconduct could face a variety of disciplinary actions by the school, and depending on the circumstances, possibly criminal charges as well.
While international students aren't eligible for federal financial aid from the U.S. government, they may be eligible for assistance through other programs both in the States and at home. If something goes amiss with tuition funding through these programs, the student's enrollment standing could be placed at risk through no fault of their own. For international students here on student visas, this could easily become a complicated mess, one that may require help to weed through.
Virtually all colleges and universities have a process in place for students to appeal disciplinary measures or bad grades. However, international students often fail to use this process successfully because they don't understand how the process works. As a result, some bear the brunt of extreme sanctions they truly didn't deserve.
If an international student is dismissed or expelled from school due to academic misconduct allegations or other issues, it can cause a huge array of problems and complications. Not only does dismissal result in a loss of academic progress and tuition money, it can also make it infinitely more difficult to get accepted at another school—let alone jeopardizing one's career prospects. To make matters worse, since the student's F-1, J-1, or M-1 student visa requires enrollment in an educational program, a dismissal can revoke the student's legal right to be in the country, putting them at risk for deportation.
Hiring an Attorney-Advisor to Help with International Student Issues
Considering all that is at stake for international students, if you find yourself facing disciplinary action or other issues that put your education at risk, the best thing you can do is hire an attorney advisor to help. An experienced attorney advisor can help you understand your rights as a student and what to expect with the disciplinary process. He can also help gather evidence and witnesses to support your case, help you defend yourself against any charges, and guide you through the critical appeals process. In many cases, the involvement of an attorney-advisor may be key to keeping your educational dreams from ending in disaster.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience helping international students deal with unfair allegations, disciplinary processes, and other school related issues. Help is just a phone call away. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to discuss your case and your options.