The University of Illinois College of Law at Urbana-Champaign is one of the oldest law schools in the country. Founded in 1867, it was ranked 29th on US News Best Law Schools – making it a particularly competitive university to gain admission to and then graduate from. If the University accuses you of violating the Honor Code, it can feel quite overwhelming. You've worked so hard for this dream, and now one mistake or error might take it all away.
At the University of Illinois College of Law Urbana-Champaign, every student is given an Academic Policy Handbook at the beginning of the school year. Within the Handbook, the University outlines specific ethical, professional, personal, and academic standards it expects the students to uphold. Accredited law schools must abide by the American Bar Association's guidelines, which include teaching students about the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and incorporating them into the Honor Code so that when they enter the professional world, these guidelines are already ingrained into their practices.
The Honor Code requires that students be subject to a Code of Student Responsibility as well. This code lays out exactly how a student might violate its standards of integrity, a significant aspect of which is academic misconduct. Academic misconduct at the University of Illinois College of Law includes misrepresentation and unfair advantage.
Misrepresentation is any action that frauds or deceives the school in a way that gains the student an advantage. Examples of misrepresentation include:
- Forging or altering a university document or record
- Supplying material information to university employees, agents, or officials, that the student knows is false
- Giving any person material information about the student's academic record or activities at the University that the student knows is false.
Unfair advantage is any action that frauds, deceives, or improperly influences the University so that the student gains or attempts to gain an academic advantage. This unfair advantage might occur in the student's course work, examinations, and other activities like Law Review, Client Counseling Competition, and Moot Court. Examples of this type of infringement include:
- Copying, collaborating or using notes or books without permission on any exam, project, or paper
- Failing to observe time limits
- Lying about how they performed on an exam, project, or paper
- Submitting the same work for multiple courses or submitting someone else's work as their own
- Offering or attempting to offer money to anyone at the University to gain an academic benefit.
Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Procedures
Once the University is made aware of a possible honor code violation by a law student, the Dean, or Associate Dean, will begin to gather information about the circumstances surrounding the incident. This information will determine how the Dean will proceed. If they determine that a possible violation has occurred, they will issue a formal notice. The only time they will not issue a formal notice at this stage is if they believe the student would be better served by counseling.
The University will send notice to the student, which will make them aware of the allegations and their right to Counsel and an advisor. The student will have three business days upon delivery to reply to the formal notice. The student may present evidence that contradicts facts originally detailed in the formal notice in their reply letter. If a student does not reply, the Dean will turn the matter over to the Secretary, who will launch a formal investigation into the matter. If the student does reply, the Dean will determine if the evidence presented warrants an informal resolution or if the matter should still be turned over to the Secretary.
The Secretary will then identify and interview any available witnesses and look into any evidence relevant to the incident. At this stage, the student will also have the right to submit witness statements or evidence to the Secretary. When the Secretary finishes investigating the accusations, they will submit a report to the Dean. The Dean will determine if there is enough evidence to establish a violation, if they should withdraw the formal notice, or refer the matter back to the Secretary for further investigation. If the Dean decides a formal charge is suitable, they will present the evidence to a Subcommittee.
After the Dean presents the charge to the Subcommittee, the student and Secretary will meet to try and agree on a fair and just course for the disciplinary procedures. The hearing will follow a specific order, starting with the brief non-argumentative opening statement by the Secretary, followed by a similar statement by the student. The Secretary will then present any witness testimony or evidence, and the student will follow with their own evidence and testimonies. Finally, the Secretary will make their closing statements, and then the student will make theirs.
After the hearing is complete, the Subcommittee will deliberate on whether the violation was established by clear and convincing evidence. If the Subcommittee determines that enough evidence has been presented to verify a violation, they will determine the student's punishment, considering mitigating circumstances and the seriousness of the offense in light of the school's professional code of conduct. For the University to dismiss the student from the College of Law, four of the five members of the Subcommittee must vote yes on the dismissal.
If the matter is resolved informally – i.e., the school recommends counseling or requires the student to accept a specific sanction without having a hearing, the student cannot appeal the sanction. But if after the hearing, the student does not agree with the Subcommittee's findings, the student has the right to appeal within twenty days to the College's Executive Committee. The student must submit a Notice of Appeal that contains, at the very least:
- The specific grounds for the appeal: there was a procedural irregularity that affected the outcome; new evidence is available now that was not available then which will affect the outcome of the matter; the hearing committee members had a conflict of interest or bias; or the sanctions imposed were not appropriate.
- The specific outcome requested.
- Reasons in support of the grounds identified and the outcome requested.
The Executive committee will render a decision on the appeal within thirty days.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help
Being accused of violating an honor code in law school can have long-lasting consequences – including potentially not being able to practice law or gain admission to your state's bar. An attorney-advisor will advocate on your behalf. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience helping hundreds of law students across the country with academic misconduct charges. He works tirelessly to comb through relevant evidence and the facts surrounding the incident to determine the best course of action. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.