Established over a century ago, the Southwestern University School of Law helps launch its students to promising careers as legal representatives and attorneys. The university takes pride in its innovative curriculum, strong sense of community, and the opportunities it affords students upon completing their programs. However, to retain its strong reputation and attract a diverse student body, the university imposes strict guidelines in its student handbook.
No law student enters Southwestern with the intent to delay graduation or deliberately commit academic misconduct violations. However, whether it's allegations of intentional academic misconduct or an honest mistake, there is always a risk that a student will face issues along the way. Southwestern University's stringent policy and the sanctions it imposes may lead to failed courses, graduation delays, and in worst-case scenarios, permanent dismissal from the school. Without the help of an experienced advisor, students may face an extraordinary amount of stress and pressure, which can lead to missteps that prevent them from actualizing their dreams.
Academic Misconduct at Southwestern
Southwestern University Law School strives to protect the integrity of the legal profession. It does so by implementing guidelines that define academic dishonesty and holding students to high ethical standards. Moreover, the university maintains that actions of academic misconduct cover incidents within campus grounds and through electronic means. The Student Honor Code, available in the latest student handbook, outlines dishonesty and the penalties incurred for violations. According to the code, academic misconduct involves:
- Cheating: Cheating is any means that a student might take to gain an unfair advantage over their peers. Examples of cheating include giving or receiving unauthorized information during an academic exercise and submitting work from another course. Other examples include revealing information to staff members that removes anonymity and representing other people's work as one's own.
- Plagiarism: This action involves a student using another person's work without giving credit or including a citation. Plagiarism also involves paraphrasing people's ideas and passing them off as one's own.
- Misrepresentation: These actions involve falsifying signatures on documents and forms, forgery, making false statements, and knowingly providing incorrect information. Moreover, students who report a code violation when they know the report is false also engage in misrepresentation and can face penalties for this action.
- Misuse: Southwestern University forbids students from misusing property or services from the school's facilities. Examples include damaging property and misusing computers and technology.
- Miscellaneous Actions: Any action that goes against the ethical principles of the legal profession can cause a student to face penalties. Since this is a gray area, an advisor's expertise is crucial to understand the nature of the allegations and provide evidence that counters these alleged violations.
The Plenary, comprised of six members, determines whether the matter involves actions that require penalties. Any violations of the honor code receive a review by the Honor Code Committee. If they confirm the occurrence of a breach, they inform the Dean, and the student attends a hearing.
The Hearing Process
After the appointment of a Hearing Subcommittee, the Examiner examines the evidence and details of the case. The respondent has the right to present this evidence, in addition to questioning, confronting, and cross-examining the witness. Once the hearing ends, four out of five members of the subcommittee must agree on the occurrence of a clear violation of the honor code to recommend sanctions. The Dean then receives the committee's recommendations and makes a final decision regarding the penalties.
If a student faces permanent dismissal from Southwestern University School of Law, they may send a petition for readmission. Although there is no guarantee that the appeal will lead to change, the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Dean. A legal advisor is not present during the proceedings. Still, they can help the student formulate a convincing appeal letter that can increase the chances of readmission.
Penalties for Academic Misconduct
Being found responsible for academic misconduct leads to what Southwestern University School of Law regards as minor or severe sanctions. The matter ultimately depends on the nature of the infraction and whether it occurred more than once. Fundamentally, however, there is no "minor" sanction that can be imposed upon a law student found responsible. Any sanction will be reported by the Dean to the Board of Bar Examiner's of the student's intended Bar. As a result, any sanction can have severe effects on the likelihood to pass the character and fitness portion of the student's intended Bar. For these reasons, allegations must be responded to carefully and as best as possible preferrably from as early as possible in the disciplinary process.
Some of the potential penalties listed in the Honor Code include:
- An oral reprimand
- A written notice of reprimand
- Placement under academic probation
- Suspension of campus rights and privileges
- Temporary dismissal from law school
- Permanent discharge from law school
Southwestern University takes infractions of its honor code seriously and may impose additional sanctions depending on the violation.
Why Hire an Attorney-Advisor?
Attending law school is one of the most exciting, yet stressful parts of a student's educational path. Despite the intended goal to go to the head of the law school class, unfortunately, much can go wrong. On the one hand, a law student learns critical information that allows them to become high-caliber future attorneys. On the other hand, they must pay careful attention to their conduct and refrain from participating in activities that can lead to allegations and potential penalties, regardless if unintended. Because of the inherent pressures of law school, however, there are times when allegations of misconduct occur, sometimes even when the student is innocent.
In worst-case scenarios, students may not have the proper evidence or defense strategy to protect against allegations, baseless or otherwise. Additionally, hearing committees and administrators may have a bias against the student. During these scenarios, the guidance of an attorney-advisor becomes an invaluable asset and a critical part of their defense strategy.
Advisor Joseph D. Lento has years of experience in law student defense, especially in cases of academic misconduct. With his unique approach and passion for seeking justice, Attorney-Advisor Lento works tirelessly to help students facing severe sanctions get the support they need. Whether it's identifying procedural errors to drafting an appeal letter to the Dean, Attorney Lento is there for students when they are going through a difficult time.
If you or someone you love faces allegations or receives notice of academic misconduct at Southwestern University School of Law, don't wait until it's too late. Call the Lento Law Firm today for a discreet and thorough consultation at 888-535-3686. You can also send the Lento Law Firm a message through their online form.