Pharmacy Students and Academic Misconduct

The job of a pharmacist depends on public trust. To be successful, you must develop a reputation for honesty and integrity—and that begins during your college career. If you don't conduct yourself with the utmost integrity in your studies, it can cast doubt on your trustworthiness among your colleagues and the state licensing board—not to mention the public in general.

That's why being accused of academic misconduct can be particularly devastating for pharmacy students. Being disciplined by a college or university for academic misconduct can make it difficult to gain admission to another school or be eligible for scholarships, awards, and other academic honors. A blemish on your record could even disqualify you from consideration by certain employers.

If you are studying for your pharmacy doctorate and face academic misconduct allegations, you should know that schools don't have to meet the same burden of proof standards as if you were in a court of law. That's why it's essential to seek the guidance of an attorney-advisor as soon as possible. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has nationwide experience in helping college students accused of academic misconduct. We can help you protect both your reputation and your professional future.

Understanding Academic Misconduct

Academic misconduct is a broad term that encompasses any actions or behaviors designed to give you an unfair academic advantage or undermine the learning processes of others. Every school has written policies as to what it expects from its students and what it considers academic integrity. The student handbook or Code of Conduct usually contains those policies.

Below are some of the typical types of academic misconduct that can result in disciplinary action from the school.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is among the most common forms of academic misconduct. It is the act of copying or incorporating another person's ideas or work without giving credit to the source. Examples of plagiarism include copying text from books, articles, or study websites, copying other students' homework, attaching your name to someone else's work (e.g., paying someone to do the assignment for you), etc. Students who submit group assignments but fail to identify the other group members may also be guilty of plagiarism y some schools' standards. Plagiarism may even be accidental—that is, your work may be unintentionally similar to that of someone else, or you might forget to credit a source. Regardless of how it happens, plagiarism is considered so serious an offense that many colleges and universities will even discipline you for accidental plagiarism.

Self-Plagiarism

Self-plagiarism involves using any portion of work you have previously submitted to fulfill the requirements of a different assignment. It's considered plagiarism because even though it may be your original work, it's not original to the assignment itself.

Cheating

Cheating generally occurs when a student has failed to comply with the instructions of a university faculty member, administrator, or another officer concerning proper conduct when taking an exam or completing an assignment. Different schools define “cheating” differently. Some examples include continuing to write after the exam has ended, submitting another's work as your own, copying another's work, allowing someone to copy your work, and using prohibited items. If you're taking an online test remotely, you may also be accused of cheating if the monitoring platform flags you for suspicious behavior, such as taking too long to answer a question or looking consistently away from the screen.

Bribery

Bribery consists of trading favors or offering something of value in exchange for academic favors or grade adjustments improperly. In many schools, it may be grounds for immediate dismissal.

Falsification

Anytime you falsify or misrepresent information, it's considered a serious offense. Examples may include forgery, falsifying a resume, misrepresenting or tampering with your research results, fabricating or doctoring academic records, falsifying information like GPA or honors to gain admission to the school, etc.

Failure to Safeguard Your Work

If you leave your work available and convenient for others to use improperly (for example, leaving an assignment or course notes open on a public computer), you could be cited for failing to safeguard your work, thereby enabling others to cheat.

Unauthorized Advance Knowledge

Gaining unauthorized access to upcoming exams or other assignments without an instructor's express permission gives you an unfair advantage and is considered academic misconduct.

Research Misconduct

Research misconduct is common in science and medical-related fields (like pharmacy). It encompasses any action that compromises the integrity of your research (for example, moving ahead with a tainted experiment, misrepresenting research results, or taking credit for research you did not perform).

Unauthorized Assistance

If you help another student by providing information or test answers without the instructor's express permission, you are giving them an unfair academic advantage, and you could be disciplined along with the other student.

Unauthorized Collaboration

Collaborations with other students may be allowed, but it's considered academic misconduct when you collaborate on an assignment or project without express permission.

Disruption of the Learning Environment

Students who disrupt, distract, or otherwise interfere with the classroom, laboratory, campus activities, or the learning process are usually subject to sanctions by colleges and universities. This could include excessive talking, interrupting class, or verbally abusing professors or students.

Sabotage

Inappropriately and deliberately harming someone else's academic performance is considered a severe infraction. Examples include, but aren't limited to, altering data from another student, disrupting tests and experiments of others, taking actions that prevent others from working, or making unauthorized modifications to a collaborative effort without the consent of the group.

Unauthorized Giving or Taking of Academic Materials

Distributing or sharing previous course materials, assignments, or test answers without the instructor's express permission compromises academic integrity. Examples of this unauthorized sharing may include emailing materials to others, distributing unauthorized recordings of lectures, or uploading materials to websites like Chegg, Slader, or CourseHero.

What Happens When You're Accused of Academic Misconduct?

Each college and university has an established protocol for dealing with incidents of academic misconduct. The process usually begins by notifying you of the allegations against you, at which time you may be asked to meet with the school to discuss the matter. You may also be notified by mail and given an opportunity to confirm or deny the allegations.

For serious offenses or multiple allegations, the school may initiate a formal investigation. This involves gathering evidence and documentation, interviewing witnesses, etc. After examining the evidence, the school will decide whether to dismiss the allegations or hold a hearing.

What Happens During a Disciplinary Hearing for Pharmacy Students?

A disciplinary panel usually consists of three to five faculty members or university staff (and in some cases, student body members if there is an honor code committee). The panel will review all documentation and ask you questions related to the alleged offense. This hearing allows you to tell your side of the story, so it is important to be prepared and to take the matter seriously. An attorney-advisor can be invaluable at this stage.

At the end of the hearing, the panel makes a determination, and depending on the school's policies, may impose sanctions directly or make recommendations to the dean as to an appropriate punishment. In most schools, you'll also have a brief window of opportunity to appeal an adverse decision before the punishment is imposed.

What Sanctions are Possible for Academic Misconduct Violations?

There are many possible sanctions that the school may impose based on the type and severity of the offense. Sanctions could include academic probation, a reduced grade, remediation and loss of course credit, scholarships or financial assistance, or student housing. For severe offenses, the school may opt to suspend or dismiss you from the pharmacy program or the school itself.

In many cases, a disciplinary action results in a penalty on your permanent record. This may make it difficult for you to gain admission to graduate or university programs or disqualification from certain jobs because of the penalty. Students must take the charge seriously as it can have long-lasting consequences. They should also make every effort to get the best outcome.

How Can an Attorney Help me With my Academic Misconduct Case?

As a pharmacy student, you should take any accusation of academic misconduct seriously as it can have long-lasting consequences for your career. Since the academic disciplinary process doesn't involve a court, schools generally don't permit students to have an attorney involved in an official capacity. However, students are allowed to have an attorney acting in an advisory role—and this involvement by an attorney-advisor can make a significant impact on the outcome of your case.

An experienced attorney-advisor can help by assisting you in gathering evidence and witnesses to support your side of the story, as well as providing key guidance for the best strategy for presenting a compelling defense. A good attorney-advisor can also coach you in presenting your case persuasively, arguing for dismissal of the allegations or a lesser punishment. Finally, an attorney-advisor can help you with the time crunches involved with the appeals process, if necessary.

What Should I Do if I am Notified That I Have Been Accused of Academic Misconduct?

If you're a pharmacy student accused of academic misconduct, it can have serious repercussions not only for your education but also for your professional future. A negative notation on your academic record can affect your ability to continue your education or get hired in certain places. An expulsion can completely derail your career. Fortunately, hiring a skilled attorney-advisor can make a massive difference in the outcome of your case. The sooner you hire an attorney-advisor after being notified of these allegations, the better your chances for rescuing your academic and professional future.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has nationwide experience helping pharmacy students facing school disciplinary actions for academic misconduct. To schedule an initial consultation, call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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