Both Northwestern University and the Pritzker School of Law hold students to high standards of academic and ethical conduct. Respect for other students and intellectual pursuits are of the utmost importance to the Northwestern community. When students are accused of academic misconduct, it's a serious offense.
Law students must follow Northwestern's standards for professional and academic conduct not only to obtain a law degree but also to demonstrate good character and moral fitness to be lawyers. Before law graduates can become licensed practitioners of law, they must gain admission to the state bar association. A character and fitness evaluation is an important aspect of joining the bar, and typically, law graduates may ask faculty members or administrative personnel from their law school to certify their moral fitness to be a lawyer.
If you have an academic misconduct determination on your law record, however, your law school may not be able to speak to your good character for the state bar. You can see how easily academic misconduct derails your law career before it's even begun.
When you're facing an academic misconduct allegation as a Northwestern law student, consider retaining the services of an attorney-advisor specialized in student defense.
Law Student Misconduct at Northwestern
Northwestern University School of Law has an Honor Code that governs all academic and ethical behavior for law students. Students must adhere to this code throughout their entire academic career at Northwestern Law.
Law students must also follow Northwestern University's Community Standards, which includes the Student Handbook. The University Student Handbook contains standards of academic integrity that all students (law students included) must follow.
Examples of Academic Misconduct at the Pritzker School of Law
The Northwestern Pritzker School of Law's Honor Code lists specific behaviors that would constitute a violation of the code:
- Stealing, destroying, or defacing library materials
- Purposefully depriving others of the use of library materials
- Stealing, reproducing, circulating, or gaining access to an exam or assignment before it's administered
- Using materials on an exam or assignment that have not been authorized by the instructor
- Cheating or unauthorized collaboration on an exam or graded assignment
- Plagiarizing; the Pritzker School of Law includes as one definition of plagiarism the failure to indicate by quotation marks a passage from another source of more than five consecutive words
- Refusing to testify or testifying falsely at an Honor Code violation meeting; accused persons may decline to be a witness against themselves
- Conduct that avoids or circumvents law school rules that govern academic life
- Any activity that purposefully creates an unfair advantage over other students
- Obtaining or divulging official school information (such as grades or exam numbers)
Northwestern University's Student Handbook echoes many of these rules but also provides a few other examples of what would constitute a violation of academic integrity on the university campus:
- Fabrication: Falsifying data, information, or citations on graded work
- Falsification of school records: Altering documents affecting academic records without permission or forging a signature of a university official
- Unauthorized access to computerized academic or administrative records: Viewing or altering computer records without permission
How Northwestern School of Law Handles Academic Misconduct
Northwestern Law has a specific procedure for suspected violations of the Honor Code, which goes through three phases.
- Initial Report The Dean of the School of Law receives all allegations of academic misconduct in writing. Current and former law students, faculty, or Northwestern University employees may make formal complaints.
- Investigation If the Dean has reason to believe the accused student violated the Honor Code, they will conduct an investigation. The Dean may also dismiss the charge at this stage. If the Dean moves forward with the allegation, they will meet with the accused student to discuss the violation. Accused students may bring an advisor to this meeting, but the Dean decides if and how much the advisor participates. During this entire investigative process, the Dean may negotiate a complete resolution and disposition of the charges. With a negotiated resolution, neither the accused student nor the instructor involved can appeal.
- Disposition of suspected violations The Dean may decide, after informally gathering evidence, if the accused student has violated the Honor Code. For a guilty determination, the Dean issues a report and may impose sanctions. The Dean is also under no time limit to complete the investigation or make a determination concerning the violation.
Possible Sanctions for Misconduct
The Dean of the School of Law has sole discretion when it comes to issuing a sanction for violations of the Honor Code. The actions include but are not limited to:
- Oral reprimand
- Grade reduction
The Registrar will keep a written record of all Honor Code violation dispositions and accompanying sanctions.
Can You Appeal a Misconduct Determination?
If the Dean has issued a guilty disposition concerning an Honor Code violation, the student may appeal the decision. Students have 14 days to request a formal review of the case by the Faculty Advisory Committee. The Faculty Advisory Committee and two student representatives will serve as the Appeals Committee. Accused students can attend the meeting of the Appeals Committee and have an attorney present. The student must demonstrate that the Dean's disposition was in error, or the sanction is disproportionate to the violation. The Appeals Committee determines whether to uphold the Dean's disposition by majority vote, and the decision is final.
Contact a Student Defense Attorney-Advisor for Help
Unlike other law schools, the process for handling academic misconduct accusations at Northwestern Law does not include a formal hearing. Students have only two chances to defend their case—the meeting with the Dean and the meeting with the Appeals Committee. A student defense attorney-advisor will ensure you represent yourself adequately at these meetings, as well as help you craft a solid defense strategy. Ultimately, an experienced attorney-advisor will help you successfully navigate an intense disciplinary process where everything is on the line.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento specializes in academic misconduct defense for graduate and undergraduate students at universities and colleges nationwide. If you want to protect your future as a lawyer, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your options.