Posts Tagged ‘Academic dishonesty’

“MY SCHOOL WON’T LET ME HAVE AN ATTORNEY!”: WHEN YOU ARE ACCUSED OF VIOLATING THE STUDENT CODE OF CONDUCT

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

You just received the notice. Your professor is turning you on an alleged charge of plagiarism, based on the results of an on-line tool. You know you didn’t do it. Or if there is a match, it was purely accidental. You want to fight the charge. But you looked up your school’s student code of conduct, and the policy manual specifically states that you cannot have an attorney.

Are you really stuck handling this on your own? What can you do?

Colleges and universities vary on the level of participation that an attorney can assume in an academic discipline proceeding. Some schools allow full participation with an attorney present at a hearing conducted much like a courtroom trial. Some schools allow an attorney to attend the hearing, but only for the purpose of whispering suggestions into the student’s ear and not to speak. Some schools do not permit an attorney at any time.

If you have read that you cannot have an attorney, then you have already taken an important first step by examining your school’s policy and procedures. The student policy manual or code of conduct acts like a contract between you and the school. A careful reading of the manual will help you determine how your offense is defined as well as what procedure the school should follow. But even though you are not allowed to have an attorney during the disciplinary process, you may still seek advice. An attorney can help guide you to the best strategy for combating the charges against you.

Furthermore, while an attorney may not be able to appear at a hearing, an attorney can help you draft any written responses that you need to submit to your school.

If you have been charged with an academic offense or have any questions about this topic, please feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or by emailing matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.
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‘I DIDN’T ASK FOR THESE!”: WHEN YOU ARE CHARGED WITH POSSESSING FORBIDDEN STUDY MATERIALS

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

You never even asked for it! All you did was obtain certain study materials from the professor as required for your course. Unbeknownst to you, however, the professor inadvertently left a copy of the classes’ upcoming exam tucked inside. You probably should have immediately returned the exam or at least told the professor. But you didn’t. Now, even though it wasn’t your mistake, the school has charged you with academic dishonesty.

Some schools consider that gaining access to test materials ahead of time allows a student to obtain an unfair advantage. Other offenses under this category can include stealing or defacing library materials, keeping a test that was supposed to be returned to the professor or otherwise interfering with another student’s work. Even though you may have received the forbidden material accidentally and may not have relied on it, schools often presume guilt if you did not immediately report what you found.

What can you do? If you are charged with academic dishonesty, there is still hope. An experienced attorney can help you determine the best avenue for a defense on procedural or substantive grounds. Did the school follow its own student policy manual procedures when charging you with the offense? The policy manual is like a contract between you and the school, and the school is largely bound by it.

Is the mere possession of the materials enough to sanction you? If not, can you make a convincing case that you did not rely on the materials or that you did not know you had them until it was too late? Should you have known the materials were unauthorized?

Even if you actually used the forbidden materials, you may still qualify for a less severe penalty. Perhaps you are generally of good character, but were under exceptional stress. Perhaps if you inadvertently obtained the materials, a letter of reprimand should be sufficient.

If you are charged with academic dishonesty, consult an attorney who practices school law right away. It is important to act quickly to preserve your rights. By attempting to explain yourself to the school, you may inadvertently cut yourself off from a valid defense by digging yourself into a hole. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact me at 847-568-0160 or email me at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.
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“I DIDN’T MAKE IT UP!”: WHEN YOU ARE ACCUSED OF FABRICATION

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

You were dealing with a lot of personal stuff this college semester, so when the deadline for your lab assignment sprung up, you figured you’d just take the data off a website and pass it off as your own. You didn’t think the professor would find out, or that it would hurt this one time. After all, you would have done the work if not for that girlfriend or sick relative.

But the professor had more savvy than you expected. Now you are facing charges of academic dishonesty stemming from fabrication or falsification of data on an assignment. If disciplined, you may be failed from the class, suspended or worse, expelled.

What can you do? Before you give your side of the story to a seemingly sympathetic professor or administrator, you are advised to consult an attorney. What seems like a reasonable explanation to you might be just enough for an administrator to rule against you.

Whatever you do, don’t start talking about the situation with others, who might in turn become the school’s witnesses. Many Universities or Colleges strongly encourage students to expose others who seem to be violating the academic dishonesty rules, no matter how flimsy the evidence may be. You should also refrain from mentioning the charges on electronic media such as texting, email or Facebook-type pages.

If you are charged with fabrication, there is still hope. An experienced attorney can help you determine the best avenue for a defense on procedural or substantive grounds. Did the school follow its own student policy manual procedures when charging you with the offense? The policy manual is like a contract between you and the school, and you should attempt to bind them to it.

Is it clear that you actually fabricated your data? Maybe you really did your own work but utilized some outside information without at all intending to present the material as your own data.

Even if you already admitted that you completely made up your data, you may still qualify for a less severe penalty. Perhaps you are generally of good character, but were under exceptional stress. Perhaps expulsion is too extreme a punishment for the degree of your offense.

If you are charged with fabrication, falsification or academic dishonesty, consult an attorney who practices school law right away. It is important to act quickly to preserve your rights. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact me at 847-568-0160 or email me at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

“BUT I DIDN’T PLAGIARIZE!”: WHEN YOU ARE CHARGED WITH ACADEMIC DISHONESTY

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

There are few student vices that a college or university professor detests more than plagiarism. Plagiarism can be loosely defined as passing off someone else’s work as your own without proper attribution. The work may be that of another student or an author off the web. Some schools even prohibit using your own work that you may have completed for another course without the current instructor’s consent. Some schools consider paraphrasing a form of plagiarism.

To catch students who plagiarize, teachers can submit student papers to websites such as www.plagiarism.com to find sentence by sentence matches from the internet.
Once a student is caught, the penalties may be severe. You may be failed from the class or suspended. Some schools have a zero tolerance policy that could lead to expulsion.

What can you do? If you are charged with plagiarism, there is still hope. An experienced attorney can help you determine the best avenue for a defense on procedural or substantive grounds. Did the school follow its own student policy manual procedures when charging you with the offense? The policy manual is like a contract between you and the school, and the school is largely bound by it.

Is it clear that what you submitted actually constituted plagiarism? The definition of plagiarism can be a slippery slope. At what point does a paraphrase become an unauthorized use of someone else’s work? If you use one sentence off the web, but cite the source elsewhere in the paper, have you plagiarized?

Even if you admit you lifted the majority of your paper off the web, you may still qualify for a less severe penalty. Perhaps you are generally of good character, but were under exceptional stress. Perhaps expulsion is too extreme for a minor degree of plagiarism.

If you are charged with plagiarism or academic dishonesty, consult an attorney who practices school law right away. It is important to act quickly to preserve your rights. By attempting to explain yourself to the school, you may inadvertently cut yourself off from a valid defense by digging yourself into a hole. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact me at 847-568-0160 or email me at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com for advice.

I Didn’t Cheat: When you are charged with Academic Dishonesty.

Friday, February 20th, 2009

You are writing a paper for a college or high school course. You are overworked and haven’t slept in days. Your friend, who took the same course last year, helpfully offers you their A paper. Or maybe you find exactly what you are looking for in an article. You use a lot of the same language from the article, but through oversight or otherwise, neglect to attribute your source. In either case, you make a few adjustments and submit the paper as your own work.

Or perhaps you are taking an open book exam in class. You open your Blackberry only to discover you have inadvertently broken the school’s rules. Or the proctor has caught you peeking at someone else’s paper.

Whatever the circumstances, you find your school career is threatened with a charge of academic dishonesty. What can you do?

A charge of academic dishonesty can be difficult to fight, but there may be some hope. A good attorney will start with a careful reading of the school’s student manuals. These manuals are like a contract between you and the school. They spell out the procedures the school should follow. Maybe you were notified of your offense, but were not given an opportunity for a hearing as promised in the manual. Maybe the nature of your offense is ambiguous and the school rules do not prohibit the conduct.

A skillful lawyer can help you determine whether you have a basis to fight the charge. Even if you were knowingly dishonest and have already confessed, an attorney may work to reduce the punishment. Maybe you were suffering from excessively traumatic personally circumstances at the time and have an otherwise stellar record for honesty. Maybe the punishment is unduly severe.

If you do receive notice that you are charged with dishonesty, consult an attorney who specializes in school law right away. It is important to act quickly to preserve all your rights. Do not attempt to handle the matter yourself without counsel. You may inadvertently cut yourself off from a valid defense if you should say the wrong thing. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact me at 847-568-0160 or email me at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com for advice.