© 2019 by Emily Haynes Law, LLC

Academic misconduct is an increasing problem on many college campuses. In 2017-2018, The Ohio State University found that 90% of the 906 students charged with academic misconduct were guilty of at least one violation.

Academic misconduct is defined by each college differently but is essentially an allegation that the student has done something that is dishonest in a class. It is most often plagiarism or a form of cheating. The consequences of academic misconduct can be serious, ranging from an informal letter to the student, a reduction in their overall grade in the course, probation, and even expulsion from the college. Students can find themselves losing out on study abroad programs, having to defer graduation, not being able to graduate from their college or program, or being rejected from their desired graduate program. The consequences are real.

Many students are caught off guard by not only the difference between what is acceptable in high school but is not in college, but by the extreme variety of different expectations of each professor. For example, some professors allow for group studying for tests, others do not. Laboratory reports can be especially worrisome, as most students are assigned lab partners to run the experiment but are then required to write their papers separately. Finally, the indiscriminate use of technology to communicate with other students about their classes means that more students can be caught cheating than ever before.

Students need to read their class syllabus very carefully and ask questions before assignments or tests if they do not understand. Additionally, students need to understand what constitutes academic misconduct at their schools, usually by reading the Student Code of Conduct.

Every college has a different process for adjudicating whether or not a student is guilty of academic misconduct. Most commonly, professors will notify a specific office that they suspect the student has cheated during their class. Students are then given the opportunity to meet with an individual or panel to explain themselves. Panels are often made up of professors and students. At The Ohio State University, the Committee on Academic Misconduct (COAM), notifies students that they have been accused of academic misconduct. The student can choose between a panel or individual to hear their case. That person or panel then listens to the professor and the student and decides not only guilt but appropriate consequences. Students can appeal those decisions, but usually have a very limited time from to write submit their written appeal.

Students need to prepare very seriously for these hearings. An attorney adept at academic misconduct can help the student examine their case, gather evidence to support their position, write a persuasive personal statement that the student will read to the panel, and prepare the student for panel questions. In addition, an attorney can draft written appeals should the panel not find in favor of the student.