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How to Contest an Allegation of Academic Misconduct
An accusation of academic misconduct, whether justified or not, can be very stressful. The Office of the University Ombudsperson is here as a confidential resource for any student going through this process. While we do not serve as advocates for students through this process, our job is to advocate for fairness and due process. Students, instructors, or other community members are encouraged to reach out to our office for assistance in understanding policies which govern the academic misconduct process at MSU.
As a student, if you have been accused of academic misconduct you have a right to due process. If you feel like you have been wrongly accused, read through the process below which outlines the steps you will need to take in order to contest an allegation of academic misconduct.
When an instructor suspects that a violation of academic misconduct has occurred, which could mean anything from cheating on an exam to plagiarism, to unauthorised collaboration on an assignment, they are encouraged (although not required) to first speak with the student to discuss what they believe occurred. The instructor can also impose a grade penalty. This could range from a reduced grade on an assignment or exam to failing the course. Instructors who impose grade penalties are required to submit an Academic Dishonesty Report (ADR). This report remains on file with the Office of Student Support and Accountability, and a copy is sent to the Office of the Dean in your respective college. You will also receive a confidential message informing you that an ADR has been submitted. If an instructor or the Dean of your college believe that more severe sanctions are required, they can request a hearing with the University Academic Integrity Hearing Board.
If you believe that you have been wrongly accused of academic misconduct, please see the steps below.
Step 1: Try to understand what you have been accused of. MSU has various policies that govern how academic misconduct including the Spartan Code of Honor, the Integrity of Scholarship and Grades Policy, and the Protection of Scholarship and Grades section of the General Student Regulations. Taken together, these outline policies that constitute what is broadly called academic misconduct. Remember that ignorance of these rules is not a defense for your actions.
Step 2: Meet with your instructor. Contact your instructor via email or phone and ask to set up a time to discuss what had occurred. It is best to have these meetings in person so that you can engage in constructive dialogue about the allegation, and so that you can share your perspective. This meeting is your chance to explain what occurred, and to discuss why you believe you are not responsible for a violation of academic misconduct. If you have any supporting documentation or witnesses that you believe will support your claim, you may ask your instructor to meet with then. This is also an opportunity for your instructor, if they haven’t already, to explain to you why they believe you violated academic misconduct policies. If, after this conversation, the instructor believes that you did not commit a violation of academic dishonesty, they have the option of withdrawing their accusation. If, after this conversation, you do not feel like the issue has been resolved, you may proceed to the next step in the process.
Step 3: If you are unable to resolve the dispute with your instructor, you may discuss the matter with the Chair or Director of the department or school that offered the course. The Chair or Director is the supervisor for the instructor, and will act to mediate the dispute between you and the instructor. If the Chair or Director feels that you have been unjustly accused, they can speak to the instructor on your behalf. If they believe that your behavior was an instance of academic dishonesty, you face a choice. You can accept responsibility and the penalty grade that has been assessed or you can take your case one more step.
Step 4: The final step in the process is to request an academic grievance hearing before the University Academic Integrity Hearing Board. For an explanation of the hearing process, visit our page on How to File a Request for an Academic Grievance Hearing.
If the hearing board clears you of the charge, your instructor can appeal the decision or accept the decision and recalculate your grade. If this is your second Academic Dishonesty Report (ADR), your dean may request an academic disciplinary hearing to assess additional sanctions. If you are contesting this second ADR the disciplinary hearing would proceed only if the hearing to contest the allegation upholds your instructor's charge. Students who are accused of academic misconduct and for whom an academic disciplinary hearing has been requested have 10 class days to file a written request for an academic grievance hearing to contest the allegation.
You may consult with the University Ombudsperson at any time during these negotiations. The Ombudsperson will explain the process of contesting an allegation of academic dishonesty, review the university rules and policies regarding academic integrity, and explain the hearing process.
See the following flow chart of the process: Academic Grievance Hearing to contest an allegation of academic misconduct (.pdf).