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Academic Dishonesty

Please help.

For context only (not making excuses)- my last final of undergrad was during this covid nonsense, open note, open book, take home final. I needed help with 2 problems and a friend came over to explain them to me. My professor caught a lot of people for cheating and asked people to turn themselves in and they would receive a lesser punishment. I turned myself in and I just got an email from my academic honor council. I do not cheat on tests and (not an excuse but) this did not feel like cheating at the time.

I have already graduated but they said this is going on my record and they are taking away my Latin honors. I plan on applying to law school in a year after working a in management consulting at a prestigious firm. How screwed am I? I am engineering with a 3.85 and a 170 on LSAT, I was really trying to go to a top 25.

I would really love to hear from someone who had academic dishonesty and attended a top 25.

Thank you in advance and I would really appreciate any advice! And don’t tell me I deserve whatever I get because believe me I have never regretting anything more in my life! I am just praying my entire future isn’t in jeopardy.



  • randyyyy98randyyyy98 Alum Member
    61 karma

    Did the professor inform you that you cheated? Could you appeal the decision at all? If they helped you understand the concept over the question it could be seen as different.I have never had a take home final that was not timed so I am not sure what the difference is. If they can't do anything I would apply to back up schools/ see if applying as a mature student would the significance of this matter as much ?

  • oliviamoss5oliviamoss5 Member
    8 karma

    The professor never informed me of cheating, but in my reflection I decided it was best to confess. I am currently in communication with her to understand the situation. I am just trying to understand the ramifications in the application process.

  • randyyyy98randyyyy98 Alum Member
    61 karma

    I would keep the contact and clarify, fingers crossed they recognize the error and it goes your way

  • EagerestBeaverEagerestBeaver Alum Member
    703 karma

    Your metrics are really good. You will likely get into at least one T25 school anyway even if this works against you. I had to write a personal conduct addendum and got into schools at the range you are describing.

    Be honest. If this is the only instance of this happening over four years of undergrad, schools are well aware that people make mistakes and these things happen. If what you are saying is along the lines of, "during a crisis, rules were changed. There was a moral gray area that it appears I occupied. I was forthright with my professor, it became clear I made a mistake, I apologized sincerely, and accepted discipline...", then that is a fairly reasonable thing that admissions officers see constantly.

    This is annoying and you may have to write the addendum, but it sounds like you are stable ground. No need to panic and soil your bridges.

  • mhf.andrewmhf.andrew Alum Member
    207 karma

    Did you sign an academic integrity form that defines cheating? I know people who have signed a form, drawn up as a response to Covid, that explicitly defines cheating as consulting other people during the exam, no texting, no presence of other persons, etc.
    If your institution did not have you sign such a form, then perhaps the matter is more grey.

  • georgiannajd2bgeorgiannajd2b Alum Member
    65 karma

    It is really good that you self-disclosed. You need to re-evaluate after you have your academic integrity interview or hearing and you need to read your schools academic integrity policy handbook. It could be that an academic integrity board member has to contact you for an interview any time there is even a slight question. (no matter what you are guaranteed a chance to give your side of the story), and after the initial interview then they decide if they are going to pursue it or not. If they are not going to pursue it you should receive an email or letter as such and may not have to disclose (based on the application wording). If they do move forward, you would have a hearing and afterwards they would reach a decision on the outcome. If it's dismissed after a hearing, then you would probably still want to include an addendum to your application. This is because when you graduate from law school and apply to the bar they will find the ac. integ. investigation, and if you didn't disclose it in your law school application you could have a huge issue. Obviously, if you are found guilty you would need to include an addendum explaining the circumstances, what resulted, and how you have learned/grown from the issue.
    Finally, if you apply, but have not received a final determination from your academic integrity board you may not need to disclose it, but as soon as you get the result your next move better be to update your application, or if you are already in law school, go straight to your dean of academic affairs and disclose it then.

    Obviously I am not a lawyer, but have had some experience in this issue. As long as you are up-front, truthful, and can demonstrate growth you should be just fine!

    Good Luck!!!

  • sk144404sk144404 Monthly Member
    edited May 2020 237 karma

    I feel like there is information missing from this story - are you saying that you confessed to a violation of school policy solely because of your guilty conscience and your professor had no actual evidence that would be able to hold water?

    Also I am confused how he "caught a-lot of people for cheating" - this sounds like a bluff that law enforcement frequently uses... come on your applying to law school you should know this!!

    It would be helpful to know what exactly you wrote in your confession - but nevertheless one could make a reasonable argument that you wrote it under duress. You confessed to something you didn't do for a lesser punishment instead of trying to defend yourself against a claim based on the absence of evidence..

  • sk144404sk144404 Monthly Member
    237 karma

    Also, as others stated you should double check to see what if anything you signed regarding academic integrity under covid-19. Then check your schools policies, manuals, and by-laws. What you want to really do is find some legal ground that you can stand on. You will want to find out the appeals process for these decisions and see if you can make a direct appeal to the Provost at your school or someone of similar standing.

    I think saying that your confession/reflection was made under duress is a good start. Also, most schools have a clause in their by-laws in regards to the ramifications of improper academic advice - telling a student to confess to violating school policy without producing evidence would appear to fall under that category as it creates a punitive effect.

  • oliviamoss5oliviamoss5 Member
    8 karma

    @sk144404 so she emailed saying there was a lot of cheating on the final and she was disappointed in all of us. Thats when I emailed and confessed (not knowing if she had evidence). A week after graduation she sent an email saying 75% of the class had evidence of cheating, then she basically chose 34 random people to punish (I was one of them, I found that out yesterday, 2 weeks later). I am appealing because the situation is so bizarre but I technically did cheat so I am not super hopeful. I was super apologetic in my confession and with lots of detail explained how it happened. The worst part is, the class was Pass/Fail and I needed a 50 to pass. All definitely my fault, but I truly asked for help to understand the problem(doubt law schools would ever believe this and sounds like an excuse).

    I looked and I did sign something and it didn't say no peer explicitly, but apparently she said it in class.

    Lessons were learned, I am seriously never doing anything that could be considered cheating ever again, hopefully I end up being a better lawyer through all of this.

  • iannchanggiannchangg Alum Member
    19 karma

    i wouldnt stress about it you'll be fine

  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Alum Member Sage 🍌
    27107 karma

    Particularly problematic is the randomization of punishment. Are you saying that some were punished and others were not based on a randomized process of selection? Because that’s not okay if that’s what happened. If you’ve been singled out for punishment while others—possibly having committed worse offenses—have been spared, that is unacceptable.

    Also, what exactly is your lesser punishment? This seems pretty severe. Anything much worse would be really draconian, especially for a first offense from someone who voluntarily came forward about it. I’d want to know what the normal punishment for this would be and what the punishment was for any of your classmates who were caught without having offered up voluntary confessions. If your punishment is not less than that, that is unacceptable.

    If it’s not dismissed (and even if it is depending on the wording of the character and fitness prompt), you’ll have to write an addendum. Of course, it’s not ideal, but it does allow you another opportunity on your application to show them who you are and what you’re made of. The particulars of what happened show an overzealous disciplinary process, an extremely minor infraction for an open book exam, and a voluntary confession which suggests a strong sense of personal integrity far outweighing the shortcoming on the infraction itself. Write a truly great addendum and I think you should be able to neutralize it. You have incredible stats, and a STEM background. Any school would be lucky to land you, and I expect you’re going to be a really competitive applicant with lots of great, elite schools fighting over you.

  • 1000001910000019 Alum Member
    3279 karma

    @"Cant Get Right" said:
    Particularly problematic is the randomization of punishment.

    Even if that problem is remedied, it isn't going to benefit the OP.

    Also, what exactly is your lesser punishment? This seems pretty severe . . . If your punishment is not less than that, that is unacceptable.

    OP got to pass the class so I don't think the punishment was that severe. And whether it was harsh compared to others shouldn't matter to the OP.

    The particulars of what happened show an overzealous disciplinary process, an extremely minor infraction for an open book exam

    What do you think a more fair punishment should have been? The maximum is being expelled. The usual punishment for cheating is to be failed on the assignment, and with an exam that usually means failing the course.

    I also disagree with characterizing this as a minor infraction. I don't know how her program is run, but open book and take home exams were common in my engineering program. It was well understood, and typically reinforced by the professors in person, that open book meant you were not allowed to communicate with another person for the exam. Our exams were heavily curved because the exams were written to be challenging. People that cheated on the exams really screwed over the rest of the class by giving the professor a false idea of how difficult the exam was. For that reason, cheating in our engineering program was way worse than cheating in a gen ed.

    OP, there aren't many data points for people in your position. There isn't much you can do from here besides focusing a good addendum. My guess is that you picked the best year to pick up a violation. Frame this as a "I got stressed because of covid, and then made a dumb decision. I realized my mistake, and owned up to it." My last comment, avoid jumping straight to a formal appeal on this. If you take that appeal and lose it, it cuts at your ability to write an addendum about owning up to your mistakes.

  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Alum Member Sage 🍌
    27107 karma

    All valid points @10000019 . Re-reading the original post, I no longer see anything about punishments being at all random, so I don't know where that understanding came from. My feelings about it really hinged on that. I'm also reading it a little differently now in that it seems like the friend came over specifically to explain the problem on the exam, where I was before imagining something much more offhanded and general, like complaining to a roommate during a break. We had 72 hours for each exam this semester and it was all pass/fail, so I could definitely imagine someone having dinner with a classmate and just conversationally bringing up something they were struggling with--something like that. That's kind of what I was imagining, but no longer how I'm reading it.

    I still think this can be handled with a well written addendum. Especially with the circumstances surrounding this semester, there's a lot of leniency and understanding going around in general. Hard to make predictions, but I definitely think OP will have some good options if handled correctly.

  • oliviamoss5oliviamoss5 Member
    8 karma

    @10000019 @"Cant Get Right" I did cheat, I make no excuses, but looking at the appeal process, I do qualify for three of the bases of appeals. I do not know everyone else’s situation, but over a hundred people cheated and 30 were punished. Everyone who cheated got 10% knocked off their exam.

    I have learned so much from this and like I said before, I know it will make me a better lawyer! I don’t think appealing it means I didn’t learn my lesson or own up to my mistake. I asked my professor for permission to appeal and she told me I definitely should! She has been really confusing during this process but she is a great person.

    Also I said this before- I needed a 50 on the test, I chose to actively learn the material instead of putting random answers or something along those lines. But as I said before- I know it was cheating and I own up to it. It definitely didn’t feel like cheating because I learned more than if I hadn’t.

    This thread really isn’t to delve into my morals and the situation, but help with advice on the admissions process! At this point, (depending on wording) I will write an addendum no matter what because I did learn a lesson and I think it’s relevant. I know I am someone with good morals, and this event sharpened them.

    Thank you everyone for your advice, I still welcome more! It is a sticky situation I got myself into.

  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Alum Member Sage 🍌
    27107 karma

    @oliviamoss5 said:
    I chose to actively learn the material instead of putting random answers or something along those lines.

    This is well put and, all things considered, just seems to be the most natural reading of the situation. Intentions matter. In law, actually, they matter a lot. And they matter in admissions offices too. You seem to be handling it maturely, and if that comes across in the addendum, admit officers will appropriately value it.

    The fact that your professor is encouraging you to appeal speaks volumes, so I don’t see any reason to not appeal it. But no matter what happens, I think you can take a deep breath and relax when looking at the long term, big picture. Your future is not ruined. Even worst case scenario here, I strongly believe that you will be a highly competitive applicant based on your numbers and STEM background in the T25 and in the bulk of the T14.

    Good luck!

  • mhf.andrewmhf.andrew Alum Member
    207 karma

    If the professor had said in class that you cannot consult with other people, as you say she 'apparently' did, then you should simply accept the decision.
    The fact that your professor 'definitely' thinks you should appeal could just reflect her desire to not bear sole responsibility. If the appeals case is lost,(bearing in mind, too, that you were told that you could not consult other people), then you will not perceive her as the sole cause of an unfair record.
    So, I agree with 1000019. At this point, focus on the addendum. It is fair to other law applicants that it is on the record, and it is fair to you that you have a chance to explain yourself.

  • sk144404sk144404 Monthly Member
    237 karma

    @oliviamoss5 This obviously doesn't apply to your situation but its the same principle so I hope you get a good laugh:

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