Student-Athlete Issues

There are more than 480,000 student-athletes at U.S. colleges and universities annually. Collegiate athletics is also very popular among fans, as more than 30 million individuals attend a college sporting event each year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the organization that is responsible for guidance, oversight, and enforcement of regulations that pertain to college student-athletes. They recently released a report suggesting that there has been a “significant increase” in violations of academic misconduct among athletes that is cause for concern.

NCAA Rules Regarding Academic Misconduct

The NCAA is committed to ensuring student-athletes demonstrate high standards of academic integrity and emphasizes the importance of continuity toward this goal among administrators, coaches, academic advisors, and students. Schools are encouraged to offer an “expedited academic misconduct process” for athletes; however, this process must be established in writing, approved by the college or university leadership, and may not be implemented in response to accusations against an athlete. If no such written policy exists, the student-athlete should be treated no differently than any other student accused of a violation.

Student-Athlete Academic Standards

Most colleges and universities have devoted effort toward addressing academic misconduct among student-athletes, particularly in Division I schools with high-profile athletic programs. Student-athletes in these institutions having busy schedules that include many days of travel during their season of competition that cause the student to miss classes and have less study time. Schools generally offer student-athletes enhanced academic support such as tutoring; however, they also recognize the importance of holding student-athletes to the same standards as other students.

Types of Academic Misconduct

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a common violation that may be committed with or without intent or resulting from negligence. A student may submit work containing verbatim material from another source without proper quotations or a reference. It may involve material taken from two sources, while only properly citing a single source. It is often considered as a fraud that involves improper usage of ideas, images, or recordings as if they were original.

Cheating

Cheating often involves a student who deceives an instructor or other college or university official that assesses performance. This act of deception forms a belief that the student possesses greater knowledge as a means of enhancing their standing. Some specific examples include having unauthorized access to materials that allow covertly obtaining information during an exam. A violation may also occur by submitting the same work (or similar) for credit in multiple courses.

Collaborative Cheating “Collusion”

Collaborative cheating or “collusion” refers to acts that violate academic integrity involving two or more students. These violations are most likely to occur in classwork groups that are intended to create papers or assignments. For example, a group of three students is expected to produce a report; however, one student alone completes all the work. Those who are a part of some group, such as an athletic team or fraternity, may be more inclined to collaborate with others within the organization.

Working group assignments in higher education are often intended to enhance skills in team-building, cooperation, and other ways of working together to achieve goals. Students may also collude when they aid or abet one another. Examples might include improper communications during an exam, conspiring to share exam questions, or completing an assignment on behalf of another student. In some cases, a student may financially compensate someone to draft a paper for them or coordinate to have another student take their exam.

Falsification or Fabrication

Another type of potential violation involves the falsification or improper alteration of documents. A student may create false or nonexistent citations or references to support their findings or hypotheses. It may involve attempting to alter documents, grades, records, or altering a graded exam and then attempting to resubmit it. A violation could also result from forging the signature of an instructor, professor, or another university representative on a letter of recommendation.

Policy on Student-Athletes Receiving Extra Academic Benefits

The Provost and Senior Vice President at the University of Oregon forwarded correspondence from the Intercollegiate Athletic Advisory Committee to his staff and faculty regarding unintentionally contributing to student-athlete misconduct. All staff and faculty must be cognizant of the importance of unintentionally affording a student-athlete with any “extra benefits” related to academic issues. The provisions state that no extra benefits including “substantial assistance or granting an exception that is not generally available” to any other students.

Failing to adhere to these provisions can place the student's athletic career at risk and lead to possible sanctions against the institution, athletic department, etc. All faculty and staff must also remember not to afford any extra accommodations to student-athletes to avoid potentially harming the school's reputation.

Policies on Late Assignments or Grade Changes for Student-Athletes

Student-athletes must be held to the same level of academic accountability as other students. In some cases, a student may cite their hectic schedule that requires meeting academic and athletic demands as grounds for special consideration on deadlines for submitting assignments. This also applies to any adjustments to grades that have already been issued.

Understanding the Role of Faculty Athletics Representatives (FARs)

Many colleges and universities use a FAR to serve as a coordinator between student-athletes and faculty, administrators from academic affairs, etc. The FAR should have access to the top university leaders. The FAR is responsible to ensure that student-athletes maintain academic eligibility and will also perform audits to detect potential concerns. Part of the auditing process involves closely monitoring the academic development and performance of all athletes.

These individuals must be well-versed in the current NCAA policies regarding academic misconduct and act as a liaison between the faculty and athletic department as needed. The FAR is at the forefront of all investigations regarding allegations of academic misconduct among athletes.

Disciplinary Process

When allegations of academic misconduct are received, they are investigated and ruled upon based on the institution's specific written provisions. Students are generally permitted to choose an advisor for support and assistance. An experienced student disciplinary attorney should be retained for this purpose. The investigation typically leads to some form of a hearing where the student will answer the allegations and evidence is presented.

Many schools designate a group of faculty members, administrators, and/or students to form a panel that is tasked with evaluating the evidence and reaching a decision. Your legal representation can be extremely helpful in preparation. You should be well-prepared to respond to questions and effectively make statements. He or she may potentially engage in discussions with the administration regarding a mutually beneficial resolution.

The majority of disciplinary provisions do allow for appealing an adverse ruling; however, written intent is generally required in a short time-frame. The grounds for appeal are usually limited and having assistance from an attorney that is familiar in this area of practice is important.

Possible Sanctions or Penalties

If allegations of academic misconduct are proven, the student is likely to face harsh penalties including probation, suspension, or expulsion.  A defined probationary period may be imposed where the student is expected to adhere to all rules and any subsequent violations will result in suspension or dismissal from the institution. Students that are suspended are separated from the institution for some defined period with an option to return.

If the ruling is made during an academic term and the student is suspended, they can expect to receive no credit for current coursework, lose any tuition, fees, and housing that has been paid for, and become ineligible for athletic participation or membership in other student organizations. If a student is expelled or dismissed from the school they are deemed as ineligible to return and should expect to lose any scholarship opportunities

If a student-athlete is determined to have committed an act of academic misconduct, they may also become ineligible for athletics by the NCAA. Any future collegiate athletic participation would require completing the student-athlete reinstatement process.

Collateral or Other Longer-Term Ramifications

Depending on the institution, between 59 and 80% of all student-athletes receive some scholarship aid in the U.S, which is a benefit that is likely to be revoked if a violation is proven. When disciplinary sanctions are imposed, the student's record or transcript will contain information documenting the adverse action. This will often impede the student's ability to be admitted to another school, graduate programs, and other worthwhile opportunities. If you are among the future student-athletes that may be eligible to play professionally, many leagues also check student records for evidence of misconduct.

Why Retain a Seasoned Student Misconduct Lawyer?

Allegations of academic misconduct against a student-athlete can result in devastating ramifications that can shatter your goals and create considerable financial problems. The majority of institutions in higher education today are operating in a highly competitive market and are often facing substantial budgetary constraints. Overworked administrators tasked with handling disciplinary concerns may proceed hastily without properly recognizing their procedural protections. A well-informed attorney-adviser will seek to protect your best interests and future.

Attorney Provides Advisory Representation for Student-Athletes Accused of Academic Misconduct

Have you been accused of violating the rules regarding academic misconduct? You have too much at stake to take the accusations lightly. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced student academic misconduct lawyer that is quite familiar with these issues and will ensure you are treated fairly and pursue a positive outcome. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for additional information.

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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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