You should contact an attorney. The value of a semester of your education represents a significant monetary commitment aside from the educational value. An attorney can hopefully participate in the school appeal process and object to whatever evidence is relied upon in the letter submitted by your ex.
Stew Crawford, Jr., Esq.
Crawford Law Firm
A Full Service Law Firm Serving Pennsylvania & New Jersey
Philadelphia Area Office
223 North Monroe Street
Media, Pennsylvania 19063
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Accusations of violating academic integrity are very serious and carry high stakes and severe potential consequences. Your rights and the procedures available to you to assert your rights are very limited. You need an administrative law attorney who practices in university and college disciplinary law.
You can get a copy of your school’s appeal and defense procedures on your college web-site or in your student handbook. Get a lawyer immediately. Time limits can be very short — as little as 5 business days.
Follow the administrative procedures re student discipline exactly or you will be shut out of the opportunity to challenge the school’s accusation.
At most universities, your attorney is not allowed to participate in the “hearing” on the accusation. (The hearing is more like a meeting, not a “trial-type” hearing.) But you need legal counsel to prepare and construct your defense, and your attorney will most likely be allowed to sit with you in the hearing and to give you advice and instruction.
School disciplinary actions are not a level playing field. The school will decide whether to bring charges and what charges. The school will develop the evidence to support the charges and present it to a school-designated fact-finder in a school-designed proceeding. The school will decide what penalty to impose for any sustained charges.
Legal recourse after the school has made its determination on the accusation is limited. Courts review the administrative appeal process for compliance with the school’s rules and regulations, but the court will ordinarily uphold the school’s factual findings if there is any evidence to support the school’s decision. Courts ordinarily will not make an independent new decision on the facts, and will seldom substitute their own judgment for school’s decision as to punishment.
You may have considered a civil damages action but that is rarely a good option. Breach of contract claims are ordinarily tenuous based on the explicit language in the student-school contract (enrollment and admission materials, school rules, etc.). And tort actions are flawed because the school does not owe you a duty to abstain from disciplining on these charges, or from making such accusation. If the school provides you due process, you very likely have no damages case that can be expected to be successful.
If you are expelled, you will have serious difficulty establishing eligibility for admission to other accredited colleges and universities, as an undergrad or grad. Students who are expelled are subject to a 2-year minimum ban on student financial aid; some student financial aid is subject to early repayment obligations if education is interrupted by expulsion; expelled students can suffer freezing of transcripts (refusal to issue), forfeiture of earned credits toward a degree, forfeiture of tuition, bar from athletic eligibility and internships and externships, and future problems in eligibility for employment, military service, and state licensing. Expulsion is a potentially life-changing event and is to be avoided by all possible legal efforts. You need a skilled and experienced attorney to navigate this situation successfully.
In many cases, the best available result is a stipulated withdrawal from school with an agreement for confidentiality and sealing of the matter against any disclosures.
In most of these cases, the result is damaging because of the affects and consequences of the school's findings of fact. Often the best strategy is to trade off defense against the charges in favor of a negotiated agreement for confidentiality of the results, even stipulated results, or a stipulation not to resolve the accusation. A sealed record is often the ultimate victory in these kinds of disputes, although that is a conclusion that students are often unwilling to accept.
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