Established in 1909, the University of Oklahoma College of Law (OU Law) is Oklahoma's only public law school and among its most prominent. OU Law offers the Juris Doctor, Master of Laws, and Master of Legal Studies degrees and ranks among the top innovative law schools in the country. The College's robust reputation, coupled with its excellent law programs, allow students to look forward to multiple career opportunities after graduation. However, OU Law also expects its students to maintain the highest standards of academic honesty. Those accused of academic misconduct face severe sanctions, including temporary dismissal or expulsion.
No law student plans to enter law school with the intent to end up suspended or expelled. However, the significant pressure to succeed in a competitive environment may cause students to make mistakes or poor decisions. In some instances, a student commits an act of misconduct unknowingly but does not have a solid strategy to counter unfounded allegations. Whether the issue is a genuine misunderstanding or an egregious violation, every law student deserves a fair hearing and a chance to defend themselves.
Code of Academic Responsibility
The Code of Academic Responsibility at OU Law thoroughly describes the ethical expectations that the school has for students. Unlike other codes that specify what actions fall under categories of academic misconduct, this code does not offer a comprehensive list of principles. Instead, it lists examples of dishonesty and fraud to give students an idea of the scope of prohibited actions at the College. Some of these examples include:
- Exchanging information with peers during an examination in an unauthorized manner
- Using materials such as books, notes, or electronic devices to cheat during an academic exercise
- Copying test questions and giving them to other students after finishing an exam
- Retaining a copy of an exam sheet
- Submitting ideas, theories, and information by another person and claiming it as one's work (plagiarism)
- Deliberately misrepresenting material to faculty members
- Taking an examination for another student or vice versa
- Falsifying any document, such as attendance sheets or transcripts
- Obstructing the administration of an examination
- Violating explicit rules established by a faculty member regarding an academic exercise
OU Law takes a strong stance against ethical violations, mandating that students sign a pledge when joining the institution. The code of academic responsibility stipulates that the College may notify the bar association in the event of a violation. Without the help of an attorney-advisor specializing in student defense, law students accused of academic misconduct may face issues beyond the hearing – such as career challenges and reputation damage.
Investigation and Hearing Process
Any member of OU Law who believes that a student committed an act of academic misconduct must refer the matter to the Associate Dean for Academics (ADA). The ADA conducts a preliminary inquiry to collect information on the allegation and determine whether a resolution is possible with the student before proceeding further. It then conducts an investigation and decides to either dismiss the case, prosecute before a Hearing Tribunal, settle with a student, or issue a letter of admonition.
In some instances, the ADA may immediately refer the case to the Council of Academic Responsibility. If a matter warrants a formal investigation, the student must present a written statement to the Council with their version of the events.
After the investigation process ends, the Council decides whether to refer the case to a Hearing Tribunal. As per the code, students have the right to the Council of an attorney-advisor during the process. After the hearing ends, the tribunal members recommend penalties depending on the severity of the offense.
Students have the right to appeal a Hearing Tribunal's decision under specific circumstances. These include disputable factual issues that require a review, insufficient evidence, legal issues regarding the meeting, an abuse of discretion, or mixed questions of law and fact.
Students must send a written letter to the Appeals Board of the College of Law, the chair of the Hearing Tribunal, and the chair of the Council within ten days of receiving the tribunal's decision. Students may also request an appearance before the board to present their arguments in person.
Finally, students may also appeal the conclusion of the Board to the President of the University of Oklahoma. However, the President's decision is final.
Penalties for Academic Misconduct
Students found guilty of academic misconduct face varying degrees of penalties depending on the violation and their record. Examples of the sanctions listed in the code of academic responsibility include:
- A formal warning by the Council of Academic Responsibility also sent to bar associations
- A formal reprimand placed in the student's file
- Disciplinary probation for a temporary period
- Cancellation of credit for academic work
- A grade reduction or failure of a course
- Temporary dismissal
- Permanent severance from the school of law with no chance for university re-enrollment
While some sanctions do not have a debilitating effect on a student's future, those that involve temporary or permanent discharge do the most damage. With a bar notification and a notation on the student's transcript, it is difficult to pursue a law career, let alone continue studies.
Hiring an Attorney-Advisor
Law students should not face this complicated process alone and risk losing years of hard work and effort with so much that can go wrong. During cases such as these, the help of an attorney-advisor becomes an invaluable asset to students and their families. Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm specialize in student discipline defense and work hard to reduce the impact of academic misconduct sanctions. With years of experience helping law students nationwide, Attorney-Advisor Lento is a shoulder to lean on during one of the most taxing times in a student – and their family's – life.
If you face accusations of academic integrity at OU Law, don't wait until the appeal process to fight back. Call the Lento Law Firm today for a consultation at 888-535-3686.