Academic dishonesty: the link between academics and the law

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University of Alabama Libraries

There have been many studies done and much research completed on the problem of academic dishonesty at the college and university level. However, there is a dearth of studies done on academic dishonesty as it relates to the legal issues and trends related to higher education administration. The purpose of this research is to analyze the issues, outcomes and trends in federal and state courts concerning academic dishonesty at the university level. The study also provides guiding principles for colleges and universities in situations of academic dishonesty. This study looked at 74 court cases involving academic dishonesty from the period beginning in 1974 and ending in 2009. The research provided a 35-year record of court cases that were analyzed to determine which policies and procedures would yield higher education administrators the desired results. The issues of due process rights (including First Amendment rights and equal protection rights), breach of contract, immunity, negligence, libel, slander, conflict of interest, Americans with Disabilities, defamation, tort, retaliation, discrimination, and general legal procedural issues (including Article 78 issues specific to the state of New York and Tennessee Code issues specific to the state of Tennessee) are the prevelant issues concerning litigation. By a large margin, the two top issues found by this research were procedural issues (37%) and due process rights issues (34%). Of the 74 cases analyzed, 48 occurred in a public institution and 26 occurred in a private institution. Thirty-three of the 74 cases, or 45%, involved students pursuing a professional degree iii to become a medical doctor, nurse, veterinarian, engineer, dentist, lawyer or pharmacist. Forty-five of the 74 cases analyzed, or 61%, involved graduate students. The courts have consistently ruled that students are to be given full due process rights in general, and that they are to be treated with decency and fairness specifically. Of the 74 cases analyzed in this study, 59 of the verdicts were in favor of the institutions, 12 were in favor of the student, and 3 were split decisions between the institution and the student. Academic dishonesty is treated by the court system as a mixture of purely academic matters and disciplinary matters. If the court deems the action taken by the university is based on a purely academic matter, it generally will not interfere, unless there is evidence of arbitrary and capricious behavior on the part of the institution. The main issue involved in cases stemming from public universities has historically been the issue of due process rights; the main issue involved in cases stemming from private unversitites has historically been breach of contract issues. However, the court system is now intermingling the obligations of public and private universities when it comes to due process rights and breach of contract rights.

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Education, Administration, Legal Studies