At the University of Mississippi School of Law, they believe academic integrity is paramount to fostering respect and accountability between students and staff and have created an honor code to reflect as much. It can be very jarring for anyone to be accused of violating academic integrity, but it can be especially worrisome for a law student. Law schools are required to hold their students to higher ethical standards than many other professions. As such, the punishments for academic misconduct are more swift and severe.
If you've been accused of academic misconduct at the University of Mississippi School of Law, working with an attorney-advisor from the moment you are accused will ensure you receive the best possible outcome. You've worked so hard to get into law school, you deserve to graduate with an unmarred record.
Academic Misconduct at the University of Mississippi School of Law
At the University of Mississippi School of Law, academic misconduct is considered any violation of the Honor Code, including cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation, and unauthorized assistance or collaboration.
- Cheating: using unauthorized sources or materials on an exam, coursework, or other academic exercises, including competition for journal membership, trial, and appellate advocacy teams, or externships.
- Plagiarism: using someone else's work or ideas and presenting them as your own, whether those ideas were published or not.
- Plagiarism also encompasses reusing prior coursework in a new course without permission.
- Misrepresentation: Improperly presenting information or the work of another as your own. This includes having someone else take an exam or complete an assignment on your behalf, altering grades, or compromising the integrity of the blind grading system.
- Unauthorized assistance or collaboration: giving or receiving assistance on an exam, course work, or other academic exercises without prior permission.
The Disciplinary Process for Academic Misconduct at Ole Miss Law
For a person to be adjudicated for their academic misconduct, the complainant must first gather facts that show there are reasonable grounds to believe the student violated the Honor Code. These allegations are sent over to the Honor Council Chair, who will do their due diligence to make sure the behavior actually constituted an Honor Code violation. Once the Honor Council Chair verifies this, the Investigation Committee will begin their investigation within three days and will send notice to the student prior to beginning.
During the investigation, the Investigation Committee will consult with affected law faculty and interview witnesses, including the accused student and the complainant (who will remain anonymous). They will determine whether there is a substantial likelihood to believe the accused student did, in fact, commit academic misconduct. If they believe there is, they will evaluate, with the help of the Honor Council Chair, whether the report represents a fair application of the Honor Code, the complainant investigated the incident before reporting it, there is supporting evidence to conclude the student likely did commit an Honor Code violation, and this evidence is enough to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at an Evidentiary Hearing.
The Investigation Committee has two weeks after sending notice of the investigation to the accused student to determine if probable cause exists. The only instances where this window could be changed is if:
- The violation was brought within 14 days before winter or summer break
- The violation is brought within seven days before fall or spring break
- There were a large number of witnesses to interview
- An individual involved in the investigation experiences a medical emergency or death in the family
- A member of the Investigation Committee is unavailable
If the accused student takes responsibility for their actions prior to the Honor Code Chair receiving the Investigation Committee's decision, they may be able to follow an Alternative Agreement Process rather than proceeding to the Evidentiary Hearing.
Once the Honor Council Chair receives the Investigation Committee's decision, they must notify the student of the next steps and hand the case over to the Attorney General at the school. The Attorney General will review the Investigation Report and supporting evidence. If they seek to dismiss the case for lack of merit, they must present the reasons for the dismissal to the Honor Council Chair and Faculty Advisor. The two of them must approve the Attorney General's request and submit a motion to dismiss to the Honor Council. From there, the motion to dismiss and the Investigation Report will be submitted to the Hearing Panel. The Hearing Panel can dismiss the case by majority vote.
If the Attorney General does not move to dismiss the case, the accused student will be notified of their rights and the date and time the Evidentiary Hearing will take place (no less than ten days from the date the accused receives notice of their charges). During the Evidentiary Hearing, the accused and witnesses will be called to testify and be questioned by the Hearing Panel and Attorney General.
Once the hearing is completed, the Hearing Panel will vote on whether the accused student is actually at fault. The decision will be delivered to the accused student within four days of the Hearing Panel making its decision. This determination will include any possible sanctions to be applied to the student. At the University of Mississippi School of Law, sanctions range from expulsion or suspension to failing grades or removal from a course. The University leaves it up to the Hearing Panel to determine what is appropriate based on the following factors:
- If the student voluntarily admitted to the misconduct before learning someone had reported it
- If the student admitted responsibility after the investigation began
- The student cooperated with the Hearing Panel
- Degree of harm or seriousness of the offense
- Prior violations
- Nexus to professional standards
- Strength of the evidence
An accused student has the right to appeal the decision of the Hearing Panel to the Dean for review by the Faculty Hearing Panel Review Committee. This Committee will assess the record of the Hearing Panel's Evidentiary Hearing and either affirm, modify, or reverse their decision, including the sanctions applied. Alternatively, they may require a rehearing or additional proceedings in some cases.
If the penalty applied by the Faculty Hearing Panel Review Committee and the Dean involve anything other than expulsion or suspension, the decision is final and cannot be appealed further. But, if it does involve expulsion or suspension, the student can seek review from the Chancellor of the University within five days of receiving the Committee's written decision. If the Chancellor determines that expulsion or suspension are necessary, the accused student has 30 days to appeal this decision to the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has years of experience helping law students navigate academic misconduct accusations. He and his team will work tirelessly to ensure the University upholds your due process rights to mitigate any negative consequences that may occur from these allegations. To schedule a consultation, visit Attorney Lento online or call 888-535-3886 today. Academic misconduct accusations in law school can be overwhelming, but you don't have to go through them alone. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help.