Academic misconduct is a serious offense. Of course, you've heard all the lectures about how much harm you do to yourself when you cheat, how you'll regret it when you get out into the real world. That's all well and good. The truth, though, is that universities live and die on their reputations. Employers aren't exactly eager to hire graduates from second-class schools. If you want your degree to mean something out there on the job market, you need to do your part to preserve the value of the education you're getting.
Slips do happen, though. For one thing, “cheating” isn't always as cut and dried as some schools suggest. Some professors absolutely forbid Googling answers, for example. Other professors use Google like a textbook. You're encouraged to form study groups; you're warned never to share information about an exam. It can be hard to know what's right and what's wrong.
You can be sure, though, that if your school accuses you of academic misconduct, there won't be any question about what will happen to you. They will pursue you as aggressively as they can. They will punish you as harshly as they can. A notation in your academic file about cheating could hurt your chances of starting your career off on the right foot.
What do you do if you're accused? First and foremost, know what you're facing. Find out all you can about how your school treats academic misconduct. The more you know, the more effectively you'll be able to defend yourself. Then, hire an attorney to help. After all, the school's going to use every resource at its disposal. Shouldn't you have someone in your corner, too?
Defining Academic Misconduct
At first glance, Cal State, Fresno's policy on academic misconduct is deceptively simple. In the online document, “Policy and Procedures on Cheating and Plagiarism,” they focus on two different types of misconduct: “cheating” and “plagiarism.”
Cheating they specifically define as trying “to gain an unearned academic advantage by fraudulent or deceptive means.” That seems simple enough. In an appendix attached to the end of this document, though, they offer a lengthy list of specific examples. These include everything from using “signals” to get exam answers from other students, to lying about why you turned a paper in late. In addition, the guidelines on cheating make two other important points. First, attempting to cheat is treated the same as cheating itself. Second, helping someone else to cheat is as much an offense as cheating yourself.
The school defines plagiarism as the misuse of someone else's work so that you create the impression it is actually your work. Here again, there's an appendix that offers more guidance, a list of specific infractions that includes “failing to use quotation marks” and “falsely citing bibliographic references.” Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this guidance is that it suggests simple mistakes – forgetting to include the proper quotation marks or incorrectly formatting a citation – might be treated as offenses.
The Resolution Processes
The resolution process for academic misconduct at Cal State, Fresno, is somewhat complex and involves two separate processes. First, students are subject to academic sanctions from their professors. In addition, though, students can receive disciplinary sanctions from the Vice President of Student Affairs and the Dean of Students.
When an instructor believes a student is cheating or has plagiarized work, they are required to schedule a conference with the student within one month. At the conference, the instructor presents evidence to back their accusation and proposes a sanction. This might be anything from an oral reprimand to an F in the course. As you might imagine, most instructors are fairly biased in these conferences. They wouldn't have scheduled the meeting if they thought they were mistaken.
Should the student dispute the charge or the punishment, they are entitled to an official departmental hearing with the department chair. The chair hears evidence from both the student and the instructor and makes a determination about the instructor's decisions or helps to negotiate an alternative settlement between the two sides.
The case doesn't end with a conference or departmental hearing, however. If the student is found to have cheated or committed plagiarism, the instructor or department chair is required to submit a report to the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Dean of Students. Either of these administrative officials may assign an additional disciplinary sanction if they feel it is necessary. That sanction could include a written reprimand, probation, suspension, or even expulsion. The report itself remains in the student's file for seven years.
When to Contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento
Cal State, Fresno often wants you to accept whatever punishment they give you and not complain. Keep in mind: the school isn't bound to abide by the same rules as a court of law, and they'll take advantage of that fact if they can. They may tell you they have your best interests in mind. They'll likely tell you that you don't need to hire an attorney. In fact, lawyers are expressly barred from student conferences and departmental hearings. Don't be mistaken, though. Your future is at stake. An attorney may not be able to sit beside you at a hearing, but they can advise you what to say and how to say it. More importantly, they can work directly with the school on your behalf as needed to make sure your rights are respected, and you are treated fairly.
Don't blindly accept your school's verdict. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento. Joseph D. Lento has years of experience with academic misconduct cases. He's defended hundreds of students just like you at schools all across the country. He fights for a fair process and the best possible outcome because he knows what's at stake for his clients.
Your rights and interests will not be best served by just any lawyer. You want the best lawyer you can get who understands university policy and who has a long track record of success. Attorney Joseph D. Lento specializes in protecting his clients' rights in academic cases, especially where schools may try to skirt those rights. Joseph D. Lento will make sure that you are treated fairly and that you get the best possible resolution to your case. Don't risk your academic future. Don't risk your professional future.
If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct at Cal State Fresno, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.