Responding to Academic Misconduct Allegations at the University of Northern Colorado

College is supposed to be one of the most amazing times in your life. It's a chance to be independent for the first time, to explore what you want to do with your life and who you want to be. You get to make new friends and try new things. A charge of academic dishonesty can put all that in jeopardy pretty quickly, though.

If you've been accused of violating your school's integrity policy, what can you do to get your academic career back on track? You start by learning all you can about how your school handles these cases. What are the rules, what are the penalties for breaking them, and what are the judicial procedures for defending yourself? Then, you contact a qualified attorney-advisor, someone who can help you make sense of your case and build a winning defense.

Defining Academic Misconduct

Let's start simple: what are the rules at the University of Northern Colorado. Obviously, knowing the rules can help keep you out of trouble in the first place. More importantly, if you're going to defend yourself you need to know exactly what it is you've been accused of doing.

UNC's policy on academic misconduct is relatively simple. You'll find it listed under “Dishonesty” in the Student Code of Conduct, and it mentions just three categories of violation: cheating, plagiarism, and fabrication.

  • Cheating: UNC manages to fit its entire description of cheating into one set of parentheses. Essentially, cheating involves the use of unauthorized materials to complete your coursework.
  • Plagiarism: Likewise, the university's definition of plagiarism is brief and to the point. The term means using or attempting to use another person's work as your own.
  • Fabrication: Finally, the academic misconduct policy lists fabrication as a serious offense. Fabrication means inventing a source or other material as part of your coursework.

You might be thinking to yourself, three rules aren't so bad. Surely I can manage to stay out of trouble if there are only three rules.

The problem is, those three rules are pretty broad—so broad, in fact, that they cover dozens if not hundreds of offenses. Take cheating, for instance, or the use of “unauthorized materials” to complete your work. “Unauthorized materials” can mean almost anything. Would asking another person to take your exam for you count? Of course. Would looking at another student's paper during the exam count? Yes. You could also get into trouble for bringing in crib notes, using your book during a closed-book test, or looking answers up on Google. Even just asking a student from another section what to expect on the exam constitutes a violation.

Plagiarism and fabrication are similarly defined, in the most general terms. In fact, just to make sure everything is covered, the UNC policy goes on to note that “other acts of academic dishonesty” can get you into trouble as well. “Other acts”? By defining misconduct in such broad terms, the school reserves the right to accuse you of almost anything, and it can usually make whatever accusation it comes up with stick. One reason you need an advisor-attorney on your side, then, is to help keep your school honest and make sure you're treated fairly.

Initial Procedures and Sanctions

Just as important as knowing the rules, you also need to know what judicial procedures are in place for defending yourself. Who makes the final decision about whether or not you're responsible for violating policy? What is the process like? What rights do you have under this process?

Normally, accusations of academic misconduct originate with instructors, though, of course, anyone may level a charge against you. Instructors are required to meet with you to discuss their allegations and to outline a proposed sanction. Sanctions often include things like:

  • Verbal or written warnings
  • Re-submissions or makeup work
  • Additional assignments
  • Lowered grade on the assignment in question up to a zero
  • Lowered grade in the course, up to an F

Before they impose this sanction, instructors are supposed to give you a chance to explain your side of the story and present documentation of your innocence.

You should also know that instructors are required to report all academic misconduct to the Dean of Students. This official has the authority to assign additional, disciplinary sanctions for repeat offenses. Disciplinary sanctions typically include:

  • Probation
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion

Challenging Your Instructor's Decisions

You do have the right to raise questions about your instructor's decisions, but only under limited conditions. You must be arguing that those decisions were “arbitrary, capricious, or a violation of University policy.”

The first step in an appeal is a discussion with the faculty member who assigned the sanction. If the situation remains unresolved at this point, you may appeal further to the department chair and, ultimately, the dean. Finally, if you are still unsatisfied with the outcome, you can take your case to the Academic Appeals Board for a formal hearing.

How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?

Students are sometimes reluctant to go through the process of clearing their names, even when they are entirely innocent. You can understand why. It's no easy matter to collect evidence and fill out forms. The process can be lengthy, and there's no guarantee of success. Why bother, especially if the proposed sanction is light?

Here's why: ultimately, there are no minor punishments. Even a warning can cause serious long-term consequences if it shows up in your academic file. A record of cheating could interfere with scholarships, keep you from getting good internships, prevent you from getting into graduate school, and even cause problems in job interviews.

The bottom line is, schools aren't infallible. Instructors do sometimes accuse students unfairly or assign sanctions that are out of proportion to the nature of the offense. You have the right to defend yourself. Joseph D. Lento can help you do it.

Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney. That means he knows how to construct air-tight arguments, organize evidence, and cross-examine witnesses. Day-to-day, though, he applies those skills to help get justice for students like you. Joseph D. Lento knows the law and particularly how it applies to higher education. He also knows how to communicate effectively with faculty and administrators. Whether you've been charged with something big, like coordinating a large-scale cheating conspiracy, or small, like forgetting to cite a source in a paper, Attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento is ready to help you get the very best possible resolution to your case.

If you've been accused of academic misconduct, contact Attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento today to find out what he can do for you. Call 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.

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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 the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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