Student Defense – Stanford University Law School

Attending Stanford Law School can be exciting and stressful in equal measures. That feeling can take a sharp turn towards “stress” if a student finds themselves facing allegations of academic misconduct.

Stanford University Law School's Honor Code

The Honor Code used by Stanford Law School was written in 1921. It notes that students:

  • Should not help one another in exams, in class, or one homework assignments that will receive a grade from an instructor.
  • Will uphold a spirit of academic honesty on and off campus.
  • Will be treated with good faith by university faculty, and that faculty will take precautions to limit incidents that might encourage academic dishonesty.
  • Will not face academic expectations established by any parties besides their instructors.
  • Can work with instructors to cultivate environments meant to encourage learning and honesty.

In this vein, the Honor Code notes what behaviors the university and school note to directly violate its expectations. These include:

  • Plagiarism
  • Self-plagiarism
  • Collaboration with other students when it isn't permitted
  • Copying answers for an exam from another student or an instructor's private materials
  • Allowing another student to copy exam answers from one's assignments
  • Revising assignments without an instructor's knowledge and submitting those assignments for a grade.
  • Compensating another student to complete assignments, exams, and out-of-class work on one's behalf.
  • Engaging in behaviors that one might reasonably believe violates a sense of academic honesty.

The last of these points, detailing behaviors “reasonably believed” to violate the Honor Code, is deliberately vague in an attempt to cover any bases that the more specific notes of the code did not. The university does not make a point, in this vein, to describe how it understands “reasonably” to be defined, making it a little more difficult for students to act with the university's intentions in mind.

Stanford University Law School's Academic Misconduct Hearing Process

Students facing academic misconduct hearings may not know what to expect. Under normal circumstances, Stanford Law School makes a point of contacting accused students and providing them with the means they need to understand what the process entails.

With that in mind, hearing processes at Stanford Law School involve the following steps:

  1. An instructor or another supervisor body must submit a formal concern to the Office of Community Standards. This report should detail the ways in which the party believes that a student has breached Stanford Law School's Honor Code.
  2. The Office of Community Standards will review the report and determine whether or not it is necessary to pursue the concern.
  3. Should the office move forward, then the student in question will be notified that their behavior is under investigation. At this time, students may begin gathering evidence of their own – classwork, reports from the class, and eyewitness accounts – to present their half of the debate.
  4. Students will be assigned a Judicial Advisor who can walk them through the Stanford Law School hearing process. Students may also reach out to legal advisors to learn more about how they can build their cases.
  5. A judicial officer will proceed with an investigation into the student's behavior. This party will bring that evidence forward and assess it alongside elected panelists to determine whether or not the accused student violated the university's honor code.
  6. If the accused student seems to have engaged in the behaviors alleged against them in the initial report, then the panel and representatives from the Office of Community Standards may issues sanctions against that student.

Appealing a Panel Decision

Students facing sanctions do have the right to appeal those sanctions. To file an appeal, a student must prove that:

  • The process through which their behavior was assessed involved procedural error.
  • New evidence appeared regarding their alleged behavior.
  • A member of the judicial panel displayed bias against them during the hearing process.
  • The student's rights were violated during the hearing process.

Students must present evidence of the above within thirty days of the original hearing. The Office of Community Standards will reply within twenty days of receiving a student's documentation. Should the student's appeal be considered, then the office will bring together a Final Appeals Panel to reassess the accusations leveled against the student in question. This panel may choose to:

  • Reject the appeal.
  • Call in the original panel to reassess the case.
  • Build a new panel to reassess the case.
  • Limit or otherwise adjust the sanctions leveled against the student.
  • Dismiss the charges a student faces altogether.

What Consequences Can Students Accused of Academic Misconduct Face?

Stanford Law School assigns sanctions to students in violation of its honor code based both on the severity of the student's alleged behavior and on the nature of that behavior. With that in mind, sanctions fall into the following categories:

  • Educational
  • Community-oriented
  • Restorative
  • Restrictive