Established in 1923, the South Texas College of Law (STCL) is Houston's oldest private law school. The historical institution is one of the state's most nationally recognized colleges and among the country's top-rated law schools. STCL has a vibrant community and offers multiple legal field options for study, such as business and corporate law, criminal law, and international economic law. Enrolled students can study in various global campuses, including London, Turkey, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Denmark.
Being part of the STCL comes with many advantages for both study and future practice. However, the college also emphasizes academic excellence and integrity as a central foundation of its principles. As a result, the administration does not tolerate any form of academic misconduct and penalizes students who commit violations. Although STCL enforces strict sanctions to deal with cases of academic misconduct, no law school administration is immune to error or being overzealous in the adjudication of disciplinary matters, potentially resulting in a punishment fitting the crime so to speak. An academic misconduct charge at STCL can delay graduation – and in worst-case scenarios – lead to permanent discharge from campus grounds and likely denial of admission to state bars.
Academic Misconduct at South Texas College of Law
The latest student handbook published by STCL outlines what actions constitute academic misconduct and the possible penalties incurred for violations. The list of infarctions ranges from prohibited conduct during academic exercises to independent work and violating campus property. It is understandable that such a prestigious law school endeavors to protect its reputation by maintaining a level playing field for all students. However, without due process and the ability to defend against unsubstantiated claims, some students fall prey to speculation that can ruin their academic progress.
According to the student handbook, examples of academic misconduct include:
- Cheating: The handbook maintains that cheating is any form of conduct connected to an exam or academic exercise that gives a student an unfair advantage over their peers.
- Plagiarism: Students who plagiarize use the work of another individual and claim it as their own. Another example of plagiarism is when a student paraphrases another person's idea and does not cite the original author.
- Misconduct in Independent Work: Students must pledge that any work they submit is the byproduct of their endeavors. As such, students who pass off another person's work as their own or obtain information through unauthorized means may face penalties. Additionally, students cannot use coursework from one class and use it for another course.
- Examination Misconduct: Students may not take exams for another student. Additionally, students cannot use prohibited items during a test or communicate in an unauthorized manner with others.
- Violating Professor Instructions or Anonymity: Law students cannot take any action that violates the anonymity of academic work. Moreover, students who knowingly fail to follow instructions given by a professor risk sanctions.
- Conduct Affecting School Property: Students who use school property must only do so to access unprohibited educational material. Any use of school property for other means such as, but not limited to, accessing privileged information face penalization.
In addition to these forms of misconduct, STCL prohibits students from knowingly making false allegations, misrepresenting or falsifying academic records, or providing incorrect information to other institutions or employers about their education and experience.
STCL obliges all persons who suspect an academic misconduct violation to report it using the online portal. The Associate Dean for Students reviews the report of the alleged incident to determine whether the action constitutes an infraction. If the Associate Dean believes that a violation occurred, they issue a “Complaint” to the Student Appeals and Discipline Committee.
Law students have the opportunity to defend themselves from allegations of academic misconduct by attending a hearing. During this meeting, students present evidence and information to counter the claims against them. Fortunately, the student also has the right to retain counsel during the hearing, positively impacting the outcome.
Limited Appeals Options
There is no formal appeals process after the hearing concludes. However, if the student receives a suspension of more than one semester or a permanent discharge, sanctions occur with faculty concurrence.
Possible Sanctions for Academic Misconduct
The possible sanctions for academic misconduct violations range from mild to severe, depending on the gravity of the breach. According to the student handbook, penalties include:
- A private oral reprimand that remains unlisted on the student's record
- Failure of the course
- The obligation to submit a formal Letter of Apology
- Loss of privileges
- A private conditional verbal reprimand
- A written reprimand
- Disciplinary probation
- Temporary dismissal for up to one semester
- Suspension for more than one semester
- Permanent discharge with no chance for readmission
The exhaustive list of possible sanctions can have a detrimental impact on a student's educational path and career. STCL will likely inform the Texas Board of Law Examiners of the student's infration in all academic misconduct, and especially in more severe cases. Moreover, with a suspension or expulsion charge on a student's law record, they will suffer from an unfavorable reputation even if they are able to find another law program.
Contacting an Attorney
The grueling investigation and hearing process and the stress of defending oneself in front of a panel can get the best of any student. With so much at stake and the looming possibility of a career diversion, the stress becomes unbearable, impacting the student's life.
When facing a hearing and possible sanctions, including suspension or dismissal, law students need a competent representative that effectively challenges some of the nation's most rigid panels. Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento has years of experience handling challenging cases of academic misconduct and fighting for law student rights. Whether it's bias, baseless allegations, or even an honest mistake that caused you to face misconduct allegations, Attorney Lento works in the law student's best interest to decrease the likelihood of a negative case outcome. Put simply, Attorney Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm will be in your corner from start to finish, fighting for a fair process and the best possible outcome.
If you face allegations of academic misconduct at South Texas College of Law, don't wait until you don't have options left. Any potential sanction, including permanent discharge, will take years of time, effort, and finances to possibly overcome. Call the Lento Law Firm today for a no-nonsense, confidential, and thorough discussion of your case.