The University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (SDM), located in Aurora, CO, is part of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. The only dental school in the Rocky Mountains, SDM has five dental programs, three residencies, and eight clinics. The school combines research and clinical care to prepare students for their careers.
The SDM Student Handbook includes a section on Ethics and Professionalism. UC requires its students to put patient care and the best interests of society ahead of their own interests. These expectations can be seen in the school's Student Dentist Professional Vow, which provides an overview of conduct for SDM students. Upon beginning their studies at SDM, students are required to sign an Academic Honor Code.
Within the school, the Student Professionalism and Academic Integrity Subcommittee (SPAIS) creates and administers the school's policies for professionalism and ethics. Both students and faculty have an obligation to uphold ethical and professionalism standards as well as report any behaviors or actions that violate the school's policies.
The student handbook also includes conduct standards as well as the university's Academic Honor Code. Behavior that violates these policies includes cheating, misuse of school resources and facilities, inappropriate patient care, complicity in academic violations (e.g., completing a test or assignment for another student), falsifying records or other information, and failing to report violations once observed or made aware of them.
Professional Code of Conduct
University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine also follows the American Dental Association's professional responsibilities. The ADA's Principle of Ethics includes patient autonomy, veracity, non-maleficence, justice, and beneficence, or the quality of kindness. Non-maleficence is a common principle within medical ethics, and is perhaps best known as "do no harm." SDM expects students, faculty, and staff to observe the ADA's principles on a daily basis and when interacting with patients and other members of the SDM community.
SDM has two different reporting procedures: a concern and a complaint. The handbook explains both of these in detail. Both must be made in writing and can be about either academic or professional misconduct.
A concern may or may not result in additional investigation, depending on the details, including whether there are multiple reports. A complaint, which must be made within 15 days to avoid violating SDM policy, results in the accused individual meeting with the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. At that time, a student may issue a written plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest to each charge made against them.
If the accused pleads either guilty or no contest, they are essentially admitting to the violation. SPAIS will then meet to determine what disciplinary action will be taken.
Pleading Not Guilty
The advantage of pleading not guilty is that the accused will have an investigation and hearing in which to disprove the allegations or show reasons for their actions. If an investigation shows insufficient evidence for a hearing, the accused and the individual who filed the original complaint will meet with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs.
At the hearing, a commission composed of members of the faculty, administration, and student body will act as the judicial body. A member of the SDM community may advise the accused, provided there are no conflicts of interest. The accused, however, will be responsible for presenting evidence and witnesses and asking questions. Prior allegations or violations will at no point be considered at a hearing. If a situation involves multiple individuals, each person will have their own hearing.
The hearing commission will decide the case by a simple majority vote. If the accused is found guilty, the commission will then decide whether to take disciplinary action. The student handbook lists possible disciplinary actions but notes that a hearing commission may modify penalties as necessary.
Within five days of receiving the Hearing Commission's decision, the accused may appeal via writing to SDM's Dean. The student must include their reasons for contesting the Hearing Commission's decision, such as lack of due process or punishment that exceeds the violation. The Dean will make the final decision and send the outcome via certified mail.
In addition to the student handbook, the SDM website includes an overview of the school's Academic Policy. This policy includes expectations for both students and faculty, including requiring that course materials include methods of evaluation and remediation options.
When a student is struggling, a course director may recommend tutoring. If tutoring alone is insufficient, a course director may refer a student to the Office for Academic Affairs. After an evaluation of a student's records, a student may be referred to the Student Success Team to help them get back on track with their academics.
In addition to the Student Success Team, SDM has a Student Performance Subcommittee (SPC). The SPC recommends students for promotion, reviews students placed on academic probation, and approves remediation plans for students who fail a course. A course director may also be consulted to help determine the best options for a student.
Get the Help and Advice You Need
Every year, only about half of the people who apply to dental school receive offers of admission. If you've made it this far, you've worked hard and are closer than you probably realize to your dream of becoming a dentist. You don't want to let struggles with coursework or allegations of poor conduct derail your goals. If you're facing potential academic or professional discipline at SDM, you need to take the charges seriously and determine how to get back on track.
Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento has years of experience working with dental students to guarantee they get the due process and the support they need. As professionals who specialize in student discipline defense, the Lento Law Firm knows what's at stake and will help you achieve a favorable outcome.
Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.