The Mercer University School of Law (Mercer Law) is a private law school established in 1873. Mercer Law is one of the oldest schools in Georgia and the first to receive accreditation by the bar in the state. With a legal writing program that ranks among the best in the nation, Mercer emphasizes building professional faculty-student relationships to foster an ideal learning environment. The school of law's curriculum, the Woodruff curriculum, is one of the top curriculum models nationwide. Upon graduation, students have a plethora of career opportunities and options – but only if they maintain principles of academic integrity.
Maintaining the highest standards of conduct is necessary for graduation, including refraining from academic misconduct. Students who violate these principles face multiple penalties, including suspension and permanent dismissal. With the help of an attorney-advisor, however, students may reduce the impact of sanctions on their future careers.
Student Honor Code & Code of Conduct
Although the law school is part of the Mercer University umbrella, its Student Honor Code & Code of Conduct is distinct from the university. The Student Honor Code describes the rights and obligations of students when it comes to studying at the institution. The code maintains that the School of Law expects students to conduct themselves honestly and ethically. However, there are no clear definitions of what these acts entail when it comes to academic integrity. Academic misconduct in the code mentions four primary offenses:
- Cheating: The act of gaining an academic advantage over one's peers using deliberately dishonest methods. Examples of cheating include copying from another student's paper or allowing them to use one's answers using unauthorized materials during exams and obtaining test answers from the internet.
- Plagiarism: When students plagiarize, they intentionally omit the source of the work they present to a professor. Plagiarism also includes using previous work for another professor and submitting it as new. Finally, paraphrasing another person's ideas without citation is another form of this offense.
- Misrepresentation: This act involves intentionally misrepresenting one's skills or background to receive merit. In other instances, it may include providing false documents to the university or writing the wrong information deliberately on an academic exercise.
- General Academic Dishonesty: Any action involving deliberate dishonesty to gain an advantage is a form of academic misconduct, and sanctions vary depending on their severity.
Although what constitutes academic misconduct at Mercer Law is vaguely defined, the code extensively describes the adjudication process. Any student who suspects that another is engaging in academic misconduct must report the alleged violation to the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs.
Investigation and Hearing Process
The Assistant Dean for Student Affairs notifies the Chief Justice of the Honor Council after receiving a case of academic misconduct. The latter summarizes the details of the case and creates a report for the Faculty Magistrate. The student also receives a notification of the impending investigation conducted by the Investigation Committee.
If they determine that there is probable cause, they schedule a hearing. Fortunately, students may have an attorney present as the hearing takes place. After reviewing the evidence and witness statements, the panel recommends sanctions. It delivers the verdict within seven days of the hearing.
Students may appeal the findings of the Honor Council to the Dean or the Dean's designee. Students must send the request in writing and mention why they challenge the panel's decision. It is within the Dean's jurisdiction to affirm, amend, modify, or dismiss the complaint. Having an attorney-advisor help with an appeal enhances and clarifies the student's message and may lead to a favorable outcome.
Sanctions for Academic Misconduct at Mercer Law
The sanctions for academic misconduct at Mercer Law range from moderate to severe, depending on the severity of the infraction. In addition to the violation committed by the student, the panel also considers their prior record and other behavioral issues before making a decision. The code presents an exhaustive list of possible penalties, including:
- Receiving a private or public reprimand
- Having to attend counseling sessions
- Giving the student additional academic work
- Requiring the student to take extra credit hours
- Loss of Law school benefits, memberships, and privileges
- Having a record of the infarction in Mercer Law's files
- Suspension for a period of up to two years
- Withdrawing an awarded degree
Suspension, expulsion, and degree withdrawal are the most severe sanctions that have a detrimental effect on the student's future. They may even prevent a student from graduating altogether. It becomes much more difficult to find another law school to study in if the student has such sanctions on their records. Moreover, employers may not accept their applications due to their history when they want to apply for a job after graduation. Provided a law student found responsible graduates, there is the additional major concern with having to disclosure academic integrity issues when seeking licensure as an attorney and how this will affect the character and fitness portion of the bar exam. With so much that can go wrong, students need the help of a proficient attorney-advisor with experience helping students navigate these specific issues.
Hiring an Attorney-Advisor
Since Mercer Law allows students to have an advisor present during the hearing, students can take advantage of their experience and knowledge. Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm know what's at stake and helps students nationwide decrease the likelihood of a negative outcome. Attorney-Advisor Lento specializes in student discipline defense, working with administrators to negotiate appropriate sanctions and identifying procedural errors as they occur.
Law students work hard and spend countless hours refining their knowledge to become future attorneys and actualize their dreams. An intentional mistake or a lapse in judgment shouldn't be the end of a student's education or career before it starts. You don't have to wait until the matter requires an appeal to take action – the earlier you address the issue, the better the chances are of success.
If you or someone close to you faces an academic misconduct charge at Mercer Law, you still have options. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 for more information.