COLLEGE SENIOR CONFRONTS A CHEATING ACCUSATION
I’ve had quite a few thoughts about my experience, having been accused of cheating so close to graduation and being innocent of the violation I was being accused of. During the situation, I had this looming sense of doom and hopelessness that permeated my mind for the weeks that I was trying to prove myself innocent or waiting on the next step in the process. Perhaps this was a product of my worry-prone personality, but graduation felt so close and so far simultaneously. I was running through every scenario in my head–What if I was unable to prove my innocence in the matter and my graduation was delayed? My job offer following graduation would surely be rescinded and even after continuing school, I would have to live with the dishonor of having a cheating incident noted on my transcript whenever I would apply for jobs. Then the fear became irrational–What if they didn’t allow me to graduate ever? What if I were expelled? Would I even be able to transfer universities and finish college? What would my life look like then?
I gained one very important realization about myself out of those weeks of constant stress: I always felt like I had to control everything. I realize now that it is arrogant to think that everything can be under one’s own control with sheer determination. There is a time to wait; a time to accept that you’ve done all you can do and you’re waiting on the next step in the process. There are resources, as well, that can help you–loved ones to help you feel more reassured and connect you with other resources (legal/advice- wise), campus student groups (normally organized under the student government) that can help walk you through what to expect in the process and provide time lines and if it comes to it, advocate for you, and witnesses that may be able to help further your case.
Having said that, there are a few items that I found are good steps to take. As a disclaimer, these are steps I personally took, but there is no guarantee it will clear your name. Part of that is how you present your information and how the officials interpret it, or what they find to be valid pieces of evidence. Preserve all files, including work-in-progress and capture creation and modification dates and times. This will help you substantiate the time line and walk the staff or governing board through your thought process. Make contact with any staff that helped you perform your work and reason through the process. If they are comfortable doing so, they can be an invaluable and essential resource to proving your innocence.
After some conversations with campus student legal resources, there seems to be a conflict-of-interest by which it’s the professor’s word against the student’s, with the university seeming to have a predisposition toward the professor. In the end, it’s up to you to prove systematically and with tact that you have not committed a transgression. Witnesses such as professors or graduate assistants that have helped you with the course work help to strengthen the legitimacy of the case. As you would likely guess, it’s not particularly helpful to become excessively emotional when presenting evidence or claiming a professors’ irrationality. If you need help preparing your case or finding out who to present to, or the order of people to which you should present your information to, perhaps seek counsel from an attorney. Some universities don’t allow attorneys to be present at certain meetings without prior notice, so that should be checked beforehand.
In general, remember to breathe and not go down the rabbit hole of “what if ” scenarios. Do everything you can to prepare, list out and contact your resources, and continue your schoolwork to show that you will continue to excel (if your name is cleared, you will still need to pass the class, so do not stop working on account of an investigation).