You did a lot to make it this far in life. You kept your grades up, studied for that SAT, and you applied yourself and made it to Radford University. Take pride in that, you should be honored to be here. But what happens when an administrator decides to question your honor?
Everyone knows the honor pledge you have to agree to upon coming to Radford, it’s like a legal binding contract that you’ll be a good person while you’re here.
“I shall uphold the values and ideals of Radford University by engaging in responsible behavior and striving always to be accountable for my actions while holding myself and others to the highest moral and ethical standards of academic integrity and good citizenship as defined in the Standards of Student Conduct.”
You might see it at the top of an exam so you won’t cheat, or in the closing parts of a syllabus at the beginning of the year, and you probably pay it no mind. That is, until you’re accused of cheating, lying, or otherwise violating this code. Maybe your phone went off during an exam, maybe you were caught drinking on campus, or maybe someone else signed for you in an attendance sheet. You might’ve done something you had no idea was cheating, but your professor sure thinks it was.
Guilty or not, you need to know what happens when you’re charged with an honor code violation, and what you can do to make sure you stay in good standing.
It starts out with an initial meeting with the administrator who accused you. The professor might call you in and have a stern talk with you about what they think you did. They’ll pass you a scary-looking form with your charge, and they’ll ask you to make a plea. Guilty, or not guilty. If you plead guilty, that’s the end of the road. Whatever sanctions they put on you are done and done.
Don’t plead guilty right away though. You’re given 24 hours to think about your decision. Take the time, talk to people, get advice on whether or not it would be worth it to fight it. Don’t be intimidated into making a hasty decision.
If you choose to plead not guilty, it gets taken to the next step, where you and the administrator have to go into the conduct office and have your cases heard by a conduct officer. They’ll present their evidence, you’ll present yours, and you hash out your disagreements there.
You’re allowed to have a student adviser in the hearing with you. They can’t speak for you, but they’ve been to enough of these hearings to be able to help you get through it in one piece. They can pass you notes, highlight important information, or just be there so you don’t break down at the nervousness of this high-stress situation. Take the adviser. It can only help you in the long-run.
Here’s the thing about this part of the hearing though: It operates on a “more likely than not” basis, so if the officer is 51% certain you did what your accuser said you did, you’ll be found guilty and charged with sanctions of the officer’s choosing.
This was the issue I ran into during my hearing. I admitted to the transgression I was accused of, but I had a disagreement with my professor about whether it constitutes an honor code violation. I felt the odds were stacked against me after doing this, because then the officer was 100% certain I had committed it, and it became completely up to her whether or not to consider it a violation. In hindsight, I might’ve actually won my case had I simply said there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.
If you’re found guilty at this part of the hearing, you can appeal it one more time. Whether you believe there was a lack of evidence, or your officer may have been biased, you can take it to be heard by someone else for a last-ditch effort to save your honor.
If after all of that, you’re still found guilty, you’ll be given whatever appropriate sanctions apply, in addition to a decision making seminar, which lasts about an hour. If you can’t attend that or you’re too salty to, you’ll be made to write a four-page paper about decision making instead. Not the most glamorous of options, but it beats 40 lashes.
If you truly think you’re innocent, pull out all the stops to make sure you don’t get slapped with an academic probation. It won’t be something that comes up in your transcripts for the rest of your life, but you don’t want it there either way. Here’s hoping this helps to equip you with everything you need to know to fight for your honor. Good luck.