Earning a degree from a university in Wisconsin can add tremendous value to your personal and professional lives. Whether you study in Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, or elsewhere, graduating is an accomplishment that can propel you into a lucrative, fulfilling future. However, dismissal from your current university will threaten everything that you're working towards.
An experienced attorney-advisor will help fight a dismissal related to academic misconduct, alleged sexual misconduct, lack of academic progress, or any other issue. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have experience resolving dismissal cases nationwide. They will act quickly to compose your defense, negotiate with your university, and fight for an outcome that benefits you.
Challenging a Dismissal Related to Academic Underperformance
We see many students face the sudden end of their tenure at a university because they've failed to meet minimum academic standards. In many cases, a university has no choice but to act upon prolonged academic underachievement—it's the law.
Any student that receives financial aid (including loans) by federally-funded universities in Wisconsin must:
- Maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 or greater
- Complete at least 67% of attempted credits for an academic year
- Not enroll in greater than 150% of credits “needed to complete their undergraduate degree”
These standards are known as “minimum satisfactory progress” or “satisfactory academic performance (SAP).” In many cases, these policies serve a valuable purpose. By preventing the extension of costly loans to students with questionable academic performance, such policies may prevent some students from taking on burdensome debt.
However, SAP policies are not uniformly effective. Many students face loss of financial aid or even dismissal because they fail to meet SAP standards but have legitimate reasons for academic underperformance.
As literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison explains, students can appeal the loss of financial aid, or dismissal, if they have not met the school's SAP threshold. Some accepted grounds for appeal include:
- An injury or illness that interfered with the student's ability to attend class or complete coursework
- The loss of a loved one
- “Personal difficulties,” which may include mental health struggles
- Military service that interfered with one's educational pursuits
- Adverse family circumstances
- Financial hardship
UW-Madison even recognizes “difficulties managing priorities” as grounds to appeal an SAP-related ruling. Yes, many universities today cast a wide net when it comes to appealing the revocation of financial aid or even dismissal based on academic struggles. You should absolutely take advantage of this broad discretion, as we may achieve a reversal of your university's initial ruling against you.
It is also possible that your school has made an error in calculating your GPA, evaluating completed coursework, or counting your number of credits. Our firm will review your records and correct any errors that have led to SAP-related sanctions.
Challenging a Dismissal Related to Alleged Misconduct
Every university in Wisconsin has some behavioral expectations of its students. Such rules are absolutely necessary to maintain order, but they can also result in the miscarriage of justice—and the overzealous dismissal of students.
Marquette University's Policies & Procedures detail the “Standards of Conduct” by which every student must abide. Students at Marquette may face disciplinary action if they:
- Engage in academic misconduct
- Possess alcohol or underage or become intoxicated on campus
- Possess or sell narcotics
- Endanger others
- Engage in physical or verbal abuse
- Harass others
- Participate in hazing
- Engage in sexual misconduct
- Vandalize property
- Trespass on university property
Other behaviors may subject a Marquette student to significant discipline, including but not limited to dismissal.
These standards are more or less consistent with those of other universities throughout Wisconsin. However, each school tends to have unique protocols for adjudicating cases of alleged misconduct.
Our team will challenge a misconduct-related dismissal (or lesser discipline) through your schools' rules and procedures. These procedures may generally include:
- An initial investigation: Depending on the type of misconduct you're accused of, you may need to meet with a professor, administrator, or independent investigator to discuss your case. It is wise to have an attorney advise you throughout the investigative process.
- A presentation of findings: Following an investigation, a professor or independent investigator may explain their findings. The two general outcomes of an investigation are dismissal of the allegations against you or a recommendation of sanctions. If you do not accept a finding of your own culpability, then your case may proceed to a hearing.
- A hearing: Many universities allow students accused of misconduct to complete a hearing. The managing body of the hearing may include professors, fellow students, and administrators. During this process, your attorney may present favorable evidence, question your own witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses who testify against you.
- A decision about your case: The body tasked with overseeing your hearing will issue a decision after your hearing—if a hearing is, in fact, part of your school's procedures.
If the disciplinary body at your university issues an unfavorable ruling, then an appeal may be the next step. In many cases, a Dean will need to levy the final ruling in a disciplinary case.
We will exhaust your university's appeal options. Note that, even if an appeal is unsuccessful, your fight to avoid dismissal is not over. Our firm will take additional steps to clear your name and keep you in school—more on these alternative resolutions shortly.
Why Fighting a Dismissal Is So Important (or the Consequences of Expulsion)
Even if you don't particularly like the school you're attending, or you think you might need a change of scenery, you should never accept a dismissal—or even lesser sanctions. You may decide that you want to remain at your current school or enroll in another university, and sanctions on your student record could pose a significant challenge to your future goals.
Depending on the nature of your dismissal, your removal from your university may:
- Erase all academic progress that you've accumulated
- Prevent you from enrolling in other universities, especially the most selective ones
- Directly or indirectly prevent you from enrolling in graduate programs
- Force you to change your professional plans or lower your expectations within a professional field
- Trigger mental health struggles, which may arise from all the negative consequences of a dismissal
There is no way to fully calculate the toll of a dismissal. After all, what is the true cost when your personal and professional goals suddenly come crashing down?
We'd prefer that you don't find out the answer to this question. Our team will work hard to secure an acceptable resolution, allowing you to move forward without the threat of dismissal (or other sanctions) hanging over you.
Appealing a Ruling of Dismissal
Appeals processes can vary significantly between universities in Wisconsin. Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) explains how students suspended for poor academic performance may submit a written appeal to the Student Advancement Committee. The committee may then request a “face-to-face” meeting with the student before ruling on the appeal.
This is just one example of how appeals can work. Our team will determine how your school handles appeals for the specific issue at hand. If you are still eligible to do so, we will file your appeal promptly. An appeal must generally:
- State the precise reason for appeal
- Include any specific evidence that supports the appeal
- Reach the appropriate recipient within a specified timeframe
We're very familiar with completing appeals. Even if your appeal is not successful, we'll continue to explore other options for resolving the pending threat of suspension, dismissal, or other sanctions.
How an Attorney-Advisor May Seek Alternate Solutions to Dismissal
Having handled thousands of cases where students are facing serious consequences from their university, we know that there are many ways to untangle a difficult situation. While we may obtain a positive outcome through your school's traditional disciplinary procedures, this is not always possible.
We may reach out to your university's Office of General Counsel (OGC). This office is the university's legal representative, who may be able to resolve your case directly. Rather than starting negotiations by claiming that we're going to file a lawsuit against the university, we prefer to use more tact. In many cases, an OGC is more than willing to negotiate in good faith.
At some universities in Wisconsin—especially smaller ones—counsel may only be one or two people. This is the case at Lawrence University in Appleton, which lists a single contact as its “University Counsel.” Regardless of whether we're dealing with a team of attorneys or a single lawyer, we will negotiate tirelessly to resolve your case favorably.
Retain an Experienced Attorney-Advisor Serving Wisconsin
When you're facing any sanctions from a university in Wisconsin, finding an experienced attorney-advisor should be your first priority. Please, don't just settle for the “local” attorney.
Experience is critical in cases like yours. The Lento Law Firm has successfully represented students across the country, and we're familiar with public and private universities throughout Wisconsin. Though a local attorney may know of your school, they may have little or no applicable experience in the field of student discipline defense.
Time is of the essence, and our team is ready to help you now. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 or contact us online.