Plagiarism, Cheating, and Other Academic Misconduct

Accusations of plagiarism, cheating, or other academic misconduct at a college or university can have profound negative consequences for a student, making it difficult for the student to continue on his or her educational or career path. Academic disciplinary and honor codes are incredibly broad, and students may run afoul of them without even realizing that they have committed a violation. Now that most students are using internet and other electronic sources to conduct research and draft their assignments, it is more common than ever for students to either intentionally or accidentally incorporate language from their sources into their written work without proper attribution, to use papers available on internet resources as their own, or to fail to disclose work that was done with other students.

Students who are accused of plagiarism, cheating, or other disciplinary violations at their colleges or universities are subjected to an administrative hearing process to determine whether they have committed a violation, and if so, what the sanction should be. University discipline proceedings are a hybrid of civil and criminal legal systems – one in which traditional legal concepts of what constitutes reliable evidence, and what sort of process is due to the accused student are often absent. For years, we have been representing and advising students facing these hearings to assist them in crafting their defenses and to think creatively about different ways to approach their cases to achieve the results they are looking for. Often, our approach involves not only guiding the student in collecting and presenting evidence, and thinking about how to craft a defense, but thinking outside the box about ways to put pressure on the school to ensure that they give our client a more fair proceeding.

We have experience in a wide range of academic infractions that students may be accused of, including plagiarism, cheating, and failure to meet academic standards. We have been very successful in having charges against students dismissed, reduced, or settled favorably to our clients at college and university disciplinary hearings. For example, we have successfully challenged disciplinary proceedings where the school failed to follow its own rules and we have overturned disciplinary decisions which we argued were based on disability discrimination. In a case where our graduate student client was being dismissed for failing to meet academic standards, we successfully argued that the school had failed to recognize and accommodate his disability that made it difficult for him to do his coursework, and got his expulsion overturned. In another case, an undergraduate client of ours was accused of plagiarizing his work; the professor learned about the alleged plagiarism because another student illegally hacked into our client’s email account and forwarded emails to the professor. We used the fact that the school was relying on illegally obtained evidence to convince the school to halt the disciplinary proceedings. We have overturned expulsions, suspensions, and failing grades given to our clients because of alleged plagiarism or cheating.

Plagiarism, cheating, and other disciplinary charges can have very serious consequences for a student, up to and including expulsion. We try at all costs to avoid having our clients’ permanent records marred by these proceedings so that they may pursue their education and career plans without black marks against them. If you have been accused of violating a college or university discipline or honor code, we urge you to call us at 617-742-6020 or fill out our online contact form to speak to an attorney who can assist you.

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