Unauthorized Collaboration

Many students collaborate with others on assignments without even knowing they can be charged with academic misconduct. Collaboration between students can be perfectly acceptable, or it can be a punishable offense. The difference between these types of cooperation is permission. To collaborate with others on coursework, students must have permission from their instructor. Students who participate in unauthorized collaboration can face charges of academic misconduct. Academic misconduct is a serious offense that can result in a wide range of punishments.

Types of Unauthorized Collaboration

Unauthorized collaboration can occur in many different ways. A student can be charged with unauthorized collaboration for working with others on all types of schoolwork, including homework, tests, and projects. Since these impede the ability to evaluate student's work, collaborating without an educator's consent is strictly forbidden.

Here are some common examples of unauthorized collaborations between students:

Non-Secure Work

Non-secure work refers to students who fail to protect their assignments from others. It can occur after sharing research, notes, or drafts of assignments with a fellow student. For example, a student may decide to share a rough draft of a term paper with their friend who is struggling with the assignment. The friend then copies the paper and submits it as their own. Even though the student unknowingly collaborated, they can still face academic consequences for failing to protect their work.

Unintentional Collaboration

Schools can also punish students who aren't aware they collaborated with others. This can occur when students brainstorm ideas or conduct research together and subsequently turn in work with identical topics and themes.

Intentional Collaboration

This collaboration takes place when students knowingly participate in the sharing of ideas and work on a graded assignment without permission. Examples of intentional collaboration include:

  • Collaborating on a take-home exam.
  • Revising a former student's coursework and submitting it as their own.
  • Having another student write a part of their paper.
  • Working in a group on a project.
  • Sharing sources and research on a homework assignment.

Unauthorized Collaboration in Higher Education

Academic institutions consider unauthorized collaboration to be a violation of academic integrity. There are numerous unfair advantages for students who take part in unauthorized collaboration. As a result, students may opt to collaborate with others without permission—even when they are fully aware of the potential consequences.

Unauthorized collaboration in higher education is a growing problem. A survey of over 80,000 students revealed that a majority of undergraduates did not view unauthorized collaboration as a serious problem. Only 32% of responses indicated that “working with others on an assignment when asked for individual work” was a serious offense. Furthermore, just 44% of undergraduates stated that “receiving unpermitted help from someone on an assignment” was a serious offense, compared with 85% of faculty members. The researcher concluded that increased access to technology encourages unauthorized collaborations and that “it becomes very easy for students to justify collaborative efforts.”

Consequences for Unauthorized Collaboration

The Academic Honor Principle at Dartmouth College clearly outlines the policy for unauthorized collaboration. It states that students should “presume that collaboration on academic work is not permitted, and that submission of collaborative work would constitute a violation of the academic honor principle, unless an instructor specifically authorizes collaboration.” If faculty finds a student guilty of academic dishonesty is subject to disciplinary action up to and including failure of the exercise or course, suspension, or expulsion.

The consequences at other universities vary but are typically just as severe. Students charged with misconduct can be suspended or expelled from the university—even if it's their first infraction. These sanctions can have immediate ramifications, including the loss of scholarship funds, school housing, or access to student organizations. They also have long-term effects, such as restricting a student's ability to find employment or access to graduate programs.

Investigations of Academic Misconduct

Universities will conduct their own investigations of academic misconduct. Once an allegation is made, instructors typically bring it to the attention of administrators. The administrators will then begin an initial investigation to determine the truth of the claims. Most schools will hold a hearing to review the evidence, make a determination, and deliver any potential punishment.

Students accused of academic misconduct have the right to defend themselves. During a hearing, students are allowed to speak and present evidence on their behalf. Although this process may seem intimidating for students, many schools give them the ability to use an advisor. The advisor helps the student navigate the complexities of the proceedings and determine how best to present their case. The student can opt to use a faculty advisor or choose an advisor of their choice—such as a parent or attorney.

Retaining an Academic Misconduct Attorney

Although students can select from many types of advisors, it's crucial that they retain an attorney for their hearing. Higher learning institutions take academic integrity very seriously. To protect their reputation, they may side with the accuser and issue unfair punishments.

A knowledgeable attorney can help students protect their rights and ensure a fair hearing. On the flip side, faculty advisors frequently side with their employer—the university. A lawyer will have the best interests of their client at heart and will work to give them a thorough defense.

If you are accused of unauthorized collaboration, it's essential to speak with an academic misconduct attorney right away. They need time to gather evidence and prepare your defense. An experienced attorney can also handle communication with the university, work to reduce your sanctions, and fight to dismiss your charges.

Experienced Representation for Academic Misconduct Allegations

Allegations of academic misconduct are serious business. If you've been accused of academic misconduct, you need the help of an experienced academic misconduct defense attorney.  Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have years of experience defending students and achieving positive outcomes. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 to request a consultation.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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