I wanted to write about a scenario that I am seeing all too often. A college student is accused, rightly or falsely, of some form of academic dishonesty or cheating. Maybe they are accused of cheating on a test, or plagiarizing. The professor calls them into his or her office and says something to the effect of “I’ve got a report that you cheated on the last test - is it true?” Stunned, the student does not know how to answer and normally denies the charge.
The professor next tells them that if they admit to what they did the situation goes no further. Maybe they are told they will get an “F” for the course or for that particular assignment. The professor tells them that if they deny the charge then it will get written up, sent to the Conduct Committee and that the student will probably face much worse.
Scared and thinking they are getting a “good deal” the student accepts. He or she usually either signs a form or writes a statement admitting to the allegation. They leave, thinking that the matter is over. A few days later they get an email from the professor. The deal is off. The matter will now go before a Conduct Committee. Worse yet, that Committee will use the student’s statement against them and take testimony from the professor. What could happen? Normally a suspension for a semester or two or worse, expulsion from the college.
I have seen it time and time again and it never ceases to make me angry. The college lies to the student, makes them admit to something, and then uses that information against them.
So what do you do?
1. Is the deal guaranteed or does the professor have to get the agreement of others?
2. If the deal is not accepted, is the professor going to testify to the conversations he or she is having with the student or are those things confidential?
3. Am I going to be made to sign or submit a written statement, admitting to anything? If so, if the deal is not accepted will my statement be used against me?
If you can, I highly suggest before you agree to anything, you speak to and hire an education law attorney. They can advise you of what would be best. If the deal is something that you think you should accept, then an education lawyer can make sure that the school is going to live up to its promise.
Professors luring students into confessions of cheating is a terrible tactic. I am seeing more and more colleges and universities do this to students. Don’t fall victim to these tactics yourself. Contact my office and we will work together to protect your education and future.
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