The academic integrity policy at Towson University starts like this:
"The acquisition, sharing, communication, and evaluation of knowledge are at the core of a university's mission. To realize this part of its mission, a university must be a community of trust. Because integrity is essential to the purpose of an academic community, the responsibility for maintaining standards of integrity is shared by all members of that academic community."
What does all that mean in plain English? No one wants to hire graduates from a university that has a reputation for cheating. When you cheat, you make it harder for yourself and others to get good jobs.
Fair enough. Reputation matters and we're all in this together.
That doesn't mean that your school can't sometimes get it wrong when it comes to academic misconduct. Professors make mistakes when they're grading. They think something looks dishonest that might have a perfectly innocent explanation. Or maybe a disciplinary committee is narrow-minded and decides to take it out on you by slapping you with an extreme sanction.
You know that saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Here's a chance to act on it. Take the time to know your school's policies towards academic misconduct because knowing them will be essential if you ever have to defend yourself.
Defining Academic Misconduct?
What is academic misconduct? Again, we could talk about lofty principles like “honest,” “integrity,” “responsibility.” In simplest terms, though, academic misconduct is anything that gives you, or someone you're helping, an unfair advantage in a course. Towson University lists several specific types, though it's also careful to note that this list is not exhaustive.
- Plagiarism: We all recognize that buying a paper online and turning it in constitutes academic misconduct. Plagiarism isn't always so obvious, though. Using a single sentence, or even just an idea, from someone else's work without giving them credit is a violation. Copying source code in your computer science course is plagiarism. So too is turning your own work in for different classes (in fact, the official policy lists “multiple submissions” as its own category of misconduct).
- Fabrication: This form of misconduct can take multiple forms. Again, you probably recognize that you shouldn't hack into the school's network and change your grades. What you may not realize is that signing someone else's name on an attendance sheet counts as fabrication. Inventing sources and falsifying lab results are forbidden as well.
- Cheating: Cheating has to do with using unauthorized materials to help you with your work. Unauthorized materials might include the internet, your textbook, or a friend. Finding out from your roommate ahead of time what's on an exam might seem innocent enough. It isn't.
- Complicity: If you help someone else to cheat, you are just as guilty as they are.
- Abuse of academic materials: Finally, some students are so intent on giving themselves an advantage that they will destroy other students' work to get it. That's not allowed either.
The Resolution Processes
Towson University actually provides multiple ways to defend yourself against academic misconduct, though having so many options can make the justice process confusing.
An instructor's first responsibility, when they suspect a student of academic misconduct, is to meet with them and discuss the matter. In other words, students have an opportunity, right up front, to offer a reasonable explanation for what the instructor has discovered. If the instructor is satisfied with this explanation, the case is closed.
If, on the other hand, the instructor believes the student committed a violation, they must assign a penalty, in writing, to the student. In addition, they must forward a letter to their department chair and to the Office of Student Conduct and Civility Education (OSCCE), explaining the offense, providing evidence, and describing the proposed sanction.
The school allows faculty to assign a range of possible sanctions for first offenses:
- Instructors can simply ask the student to revise the work, either with or without penalty.
- They can reduce the grade on the assignment.
- They can reduce the grade in the course, including failing the student altogether.
As might be expected, penalties for a second offense are more severe. These are typically assigned not by the instructor but by the OSCCE, and include:
Students are entitled to appeal an instructor's decision through several layers of administration. First, the student can appeal to the department chair. If they remain unsatisfied, they can appeal the chair's decision to the college dean. Finally, they may also appeal to the Student Appeals Committee. This committee consists of:
- Six elected faculty members
- One undergraduate student
- One graduate student
- The director of the OSCCE
- A representative of the Provost
- A representative of the Vice President of Student Affairs
This committee's decision is final.
When to Contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento
It may be tempting to just accept an accusation against you and take the penalty. Maybe you're thinking you'll just re-enroll in the class and get the credit later. Unfortunately, that's usually not the end of it. Remember that the instructor must send a letter to the OSCCE? That letter becomes part of your academic file. It could interfere with your ability to get internships, scholarships, to transfer to another school, to get into graduate school, even to get your first job.
Don't just accept what's happening to you. Your school won't look out for your best interests. Once you've been accused, they're on the instructor's side. You need someone who does care about your future, someone to stand in your corner and represent you.
You need attorney Joseph D. Lento. Joseph D. Lento built his career on school misconduct cases. He understands the atmosphere on your campus. He knows how faculty and administrators operate. Joseph D. Lento also knows the process and the law, though, having been down this road on behalf of clients nationwide too many times to count. He's committed to making sure your school doesn't violate your due process rights, that it treats you fairly and equitably.
If you or your child has been accused of academic misconduct at Towson University, don't wait. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.