The Liberty University School of Law (Liberty) is a private Evangelical Christian university established in 2004. Despite its relatively recent establishment, Liberty is among Virginia's top ten law schools, with a 5-1 student to faculty ratio. In 2020, Liberty's bar passage rate was 91.67%. The law school offers 12 areas of concentration, three dual-degree programs, and emphasizes experiential learning. Students also have the opportunity to partake in multiple externships to strengthen their experience and prepare them for the rigors of law practice.
Liberty's Academic Honor Code stresses the importance of moral virtue and professionalism. Students must demonstrate the highest standards of ethical behavior that befits their future profession in law. Academic misconduct is high on the list of offenses and comes with multiple sanctions, including suspension or expulsion. Although everyone makes mistakes, sanctions lead to lost time, reputation damage and prevent students from actualizing their dreams of becoming future attorneys. In cases such as these, students need the help of an experienced attorney-advisor who specializes in student discipline defense.
Liberty's Academic Honor Code
According to the Academic Honor Code, students must demonstrate ethical behavioral standards to develop their character and gain knowledge about the practice of law. Academic misconduct is high on the list of prohibited behavior. Violations of the honor code lead to disciplinary procedures. Students who believe that someone is engaging in prohibited actions have an affirmative duty to report them. At Liberty, academic misconduct falls under three broad categories:
- Plagiarism: This action involves intentionally omitting attribution to a source. Plagiarism comes in multiple forms, such as paraphrasing. It is one of the most common infarctions. Universities use many digital programs to identify plagiarism in submitted work and penalize students who engage in this practice.
- Cheating: Involves any unauthorized means to gain an academic advantage over fellow law students. Some forms of cheating mentioned in the Honor Code include copying from another person's work or allowing others to use one's answers. Other examples include taking an exam for another student or asking someone to take one's exam and not immediately stopping once a timed exam concludes.
- Falsification: A form of dishonesty that involves deliberate misrepresentation. Examples of this violation include providing false information in the law school application, citing a nonexistent source, intentionally distorting data and information, and inventing statistics and figures.
Upon learning of an academic misconduct violation, the next move depends on the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (Academic Dean). The Academic Dean may choose to address the issue with the student, refer the matter to the Dean of the law school, or send it to the Conduct Review Committee (CRC). If the Dean of the law school decides on a sanction, it applies as if it underwent a hearing by the CRC.
The Hearing Process
The CRC may call for a hearing to address each academic misconduct case and make a finding for each alleged violation. Suppose the CRC believes that the student is guilty of one or multiple offenses. In that case, it imposes sanctions and informs the Dean of the Law School, the Academic Dean, and the student. Students have a right to respond to the complaint and provide any information they believe helps strengthen their case. They may also call for an evidentiary hearing. However, the CRC also has the same right and may call for a hearing even if the student does not request it.
Students have the right to support their arguments using evidence and witnesses during the hearing. After it concludes, the CRC members deliberate to determine whether the student engaged in academic misconduct. If yes, the CRC recommends sanctions and sends its findings to the Dean of the law school. The latter has the power to accept, reject, or modify the recommendation. The CRC may also investigate the student's academic history during deliberation to determine if similar infarctions occurred previously.
According to Liberty University’s procedure, all students have the right to appeal a decision within seven days of receiving official notification for academic misconduct. Students may do so twice through the university's website. If two appeals receive a denial, the university imposes the sanctions recommended by the Dean of the Law School and the CRC. In cases involving severe or repeated academic misconduct, students may receive a dismissal with no chance of re-enrollment unless granted a reinstatement.
Sanctions for Academic Misconduct
All sanctions potentially cause degree-altering repercussions, but some sanctions are more severe than others. According to the Honor Code, students risk facing the following penalties for academic misconduct:
- An academic penalty such as a lower grade or failing the course
- Written reprimand
- Placement under probation with or without conditions
- Denying the student participation in any extracurricular activities
- Temporary suspension of academic participation
- Permanent dismissal from the school of law
Suspension and expulsion have severe repercussions on a student's future and reputation. They cause law students to fall behind and impacts their future career even after graduation. Employers asking to see the student's transcript may choose another applicant with an unblemished record instead of one that received suspension or dismissal.
Why An Attorney-Advisor's Help Matters
If you are a law student or parent of one, you know how difficult it is to become an attorney and the countless hours of study it takes. Unfortunately, a severe sanction undermines years of hard work and effort and may ruin a student's future before it begins. Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento understands what it's like for students and their parents and works hard to help them navigate this stressful time. Attorney Lento negotiates on your behalf and assesses every angle of the allegation for the best possible outcome.
Most importantly, Attorney-Advisor Lento specializes in student defense and helps law students around the country face the most intensive investigations and hearing panels. Whether you face sanctions or need support during an appeal, don't wait until it's too late. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 for a discreet consultation.