It sometimes seems like it's getting harder and harder not to cheat. You can find paper mills all over the internet that, for a reasonable price, will write a term paper tailor-made to your specifications. And if you're taking an exam at home, you have to have some serious self-control to keep yourself from Googling answers. Slips can and do happen.
Of course, academic misconduct does matter. Schools live and die based on their reputation for rigorous education, and if the general public decides a school can't be trusted, that can have a real impact on whether businesses are willing to hire its graduates.
Academic misconduct should matter to students as well. If you're found guilty of academic misconduct, it can affect your academic standing or cause you to lose scholarships. If the school includes a notation about the offense on your transcript, you may find it difficult to transfer to another school or even to find a job.
In short, academic misconduct is a serious offense, but slips can and do happen. You should know how your school treats academic misconduct and what to do if you should find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to defend yourself against such charges.
Defining Academic Misconduct
In general terms, “academic misconduct” is usually defined as any action that gives someone an unfair academic advantage or that undermines the learning process in general. San Jose State University uses the word “dishonesty” in place of “misconduct.” That word puts emphasis on the intention behind the act. You are expected to be honest in how you complete work and obtain your grades in your courses.
More specifically, though, San Jose State divides academic dishonesty into two categories: cheating and plagiarism. They define “cheating” as “attempting to obtain credit, obtaining credit, or assisting others in obtaining credit for academic work through the use of any dishonest, deceptive, or fraudulent means” (4). In addition, they offer some specific examples:
- Copying someone else's work
- Submitting work previously graded in another course
- Submitting the same work in two classes at the same time
- Consulting materials an instructor has prohibited
- Altering or interfering with the grading process
- Having someone else take your exams
- Any other act that “defrauds or misrepresents”
This list would seem to cover plagiarism, but just to be sure, SJSU takes the time to define plagiarism separately. In simplest terms, they define it as “knowingly or unknowingly” using the substance of someone else's work and presenting it as your own. They further point out that plagiarism isn't limited to written works but includes musical compositions, paintings, sculptures, even computer code. The use of “knowingly or unknowingly” is telling as well, since it indicates that should you simply make a mistake in how you cite your sources, you can still be held liable for committing plagiarism.
The Resolution Processes
For the most part, San Jose State University leaves the resolution of academic misconduct in the hands of the individual instructors. Instructors are expected to have verified academic misconduct through “personal observation or documentation. In addition, if an instructor suspects such misconduct, they are obligated to meet with the student and discuss the matter. Based on the nature of the offense, the instructor can assign one of several sanctions. The school suggests a range of possibilities:
- Oral reprimand
- Repeating the assignment
- A lower grade on the assignment
- Failure on the assignment
- Reduction in course grade
- Failure in the course
- The recommendation of more serious sanctions
These further sanctions, which can only be imposed by the university, can include probation, suspension, and expulsion.
The faculty member is also required to report the offense to the Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development (SCED). If they fail to do so, they can't enforce their sanction. The SCED reviews each incident to verify the student's guilt and to approve or reject the instructor's prescribed sanctions. This means students do have some protection against indiscriminate harassment. In addition, if students aren't satisfied with the SCED's findings, they do ultimately have the right to file an appeal of their case with the Board of Academic Freedom and Professional Responsibility (BAFPR).
It's important to note that at any point during the review process, the SCED and the BARFPR both have the power to modify the instructor's sanctions, either reducing them or increasing them.
When to Contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento
Colleges and universities aren't bound to abide by the same rules as a court of law, and they'll take advantage of that fact if they can. San Jose State may tell you that they're looking out for your best interests, that you don't need to hire an attorney. San Jose State wants you to accept your punishment and not complain. If you've been accused of academic misconduct, though, the school is not on your side. They are trying to prove you're guilty. If you want to prove that you're not, you need someone on your side, someone who knows the law, someone who will stand up for your rights.
Don't get steamrolled by your school. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento. Joseph D. Lento has defended hundreds of clients just like you from academic misconduct allegations at schools across the country. He specializes in protecting his clients' rights, even when 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 San Jose State University, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.