Responding to Academic Misconduct Charges at ECPI University

Colleges and universities take academic misconduct seriously. You can understand why. A school lives and dies on its reputation. Employers aren't anxious to hire graduates from a university that's known for cheating.

Sometimes, though, there can be a fine line between “serious” and “obsessive.” Lately, it seems like professors are almost paranoid about cheating. They level allegations at the drop of a hat and punish violators with sanctions that are often far out of proportion to the nature of the offense.

If you're facing one of these allegations, what can you do? Take it as seriously as your school does. Make sure you know the rules and what happens if you break them. Find out all you can about what judicial procedures are in place for challenging your instructors' decisions. And most importantly, find an attorney-advisor, someone who can help you build a case and make sure the school treats you fairly.

Defining Academic Misconduct

You can tell a lot about a university from its academic integrity policy. What does ECPI's Honor Code say about the school? It says that students are expected to take responsibility for themselves. The school doesn't waste time on a long list of what you should and shouldn't do. Instead, you pledge to “refrain from any form of academic dishonesty.” That's pretty broad. The code does mention two specific examples, cheating, and plagiarism, but it doesn't really go into detail about either.

Here's some basic information about what these two terms mean.

  • Cheating: Students often use “cheating” as a generic term for all forms of academic misconduct. In fact, it specifically refers to the use of unauthorized resources in completing your coursework. That definition covers a lot of territory. Another student might be considered an “unauthorized resource.” In certain instances, online research might qualify. Using a book during a closed-book exam would certainly count, as would crib sheets and advanced copies of the exam.
  • Plagiarism: This involves the attempt to pass another person's work off as your own, without giving them credit. Here again, the definition is broad enough to include a wide variety of misbehavior. Obviously, you're not supposed to buy your freshman comp papers from an online paper mill. You need to make sure you're citing every source as well, though. In addition, plagiarism doesn't just apply to written work. You can plagiarize images, music, and even computer code.

It's nice that ECPI trusts its students well enough that it doesn't have to be specific about what constitutes misconduct. However, an honor code generally with its own set of problems. Specifically, it's so general that instructors can charge you with virtually anything and probably make the charges stick. That's one reason why it can be so useful to have an attorney-advisor at your side. Student conduct attorneys know how to hold schools accountable for vague language and how to insist your university treats you fairly.

Judicial Procedures at ECPI University

At most schools, the primary responsibility for identifying and punishing academic misconduct rests with instructors. After all, instructors are in the best position to recognize misconduct when it occurs. When an instructor finds you responsible for a violation, they typically assign a sanction. Sanctions generally include:

  • Written or verbal warning
  • Makeup work or re-submission of the original assignment
  • Educational assignment on the importance of academic integrity
  • Lowered grade on the assignment in question, up to a zero
  • Lowered grade in the course, up to an F

In addition, the school itself may impose stiffer penalties for particularly egregious or multiple offenses. These can include:

  • Probation
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion

What do you do if you're accused, though? How do you challenge your instructor's decisions?

Unfortunately, ECPI's description of judicial procedures regarding academic misconduct is no clearer than its description of the rules, and that's particularly troubling. When a school doesn't have a well-defined policy for handling misconduct allegations, you can't be sure it will protect your due process rights if you're accused of breaking the rules.

ECPI does describe some Appeal Procedures and Review Boards. These descriptions suggest that you can appeal “adverse actions” taken against you to the Campus President. That would seem to include sanctions from your instructors. An appeal involves submitting a written statement along with any documentary evidence.

Should the President decide against you, you can appeal further to the school's Judicial Review Board. In such cases, you have the opportunity to present evidence yourself to a three-member panel and to call witnesses to testify on your behalf. However, you must have a “clear basis for appeal” before the Board will grant a hearing, and there is no defined set of procedures for how such hearings should operate.

Joseph D. Lento, Student Conduct Attorney-Advisor

Students don't always challenge their instructor's decisions, even when they are entirely innocent of the charges. You can understand why. Even under the best of circumstances, it's not easy to take on your school. ECPI makes the task especially difficult by shrouding rules and procedures in so much mystery. You could be forgiven, then, for thinking that it might just be easier to accept your punishment and move on, especially if the punishment seems “light.”

Here's the problem with that line of thinking. There are no “light” punishments. Even a warning can cause long-term consequences if it shows up in your academic file. A notation about cheating can cost you scholarships, prevent you from getting into graduate school, and even interfere with your initial job applications. You can't afford to take any accusation lightly. You need to know exactly what you're facing, and you need to have help dealing with 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, 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 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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