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This week I was accused of cheating on two online exams in two separate classes.

Both professors are claiming the lockdown browser recordings show "evidence" of me cheating. When I asked them what the evidence was and why I was being accused they stated that it is in the video and has been sent to the honor council for review. I did not have any extra papers, cell phone, iPads, etc. There was also a baby monitor in front of me because I have a baby at home and no one else was there to watch. We were allowed scratch paper and I used it heavily to the side of my desk but that is it.

I'm assuming my writing/reading what I wrote caused me to be out of frame for too long or I was looking down for too long. Is this enough to convict me of cheating? I am facing failed courses and expulsion.

UPDATE

Regardless of my innocence. I now believe that my university is not giving me a fair due process. This excerpts below are from the university handbook regarding academic dishonesty and a FL law that applies to all public universities.

The student shall be provided with written notice of the violations against him/her in sufficient detail and in sufficient time to prepare for a hearing or meeting before an appropriate committee, hearing body, or designated University official;

The University shall establish a minimum number of days in advance of the hearing or meeting to present the written notice of violations, but in no case will this notice be less than five (5) business days, except in cases of emergency hearings as specified below;

The student and his/her advisor may inspect all of the information that will be presented against the student at least three (3) business days before the student disciplinary hearing or meeting, except in cases of emergency hearings where the student may inspect the information at least one (1) business day prior to the hearing.

I did not receive a letter outlining my offenses, I instead received an email stating that my hearing is on Thursday. That is 1 business day from my professors accusing me and 3 business days from notice of my hearing. I still have not been told what I did wrong and I am expected to defend myself.

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    The camera that was directed to you, did it show the screen of the baby monitor? That is, were the professors able to see that the baby monitor did not contain material that could be used to cheat? – Joel Reyes Noche Apr 26 at 10:26
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    Did you tell the professor there was a baby monitor in front of you? – scaaahu Apr 26 at 12:00
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    Can you say some more about the conditions of the exam? Time required? Open or closed book and notes? Kinds of questions - essay, short answer, multiple choice...? Completeness of prior instruction on taking it? Expected experience of using this methodology for students? – Buffy Apr 26 at 13:19
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    @JoelReyesNoche no it was off to the side. It was not listed as prohibited materials (ie phones, extra laptop, cheat sheets etc) plus I thought it was personal so I didn't feel the need to disclose but now I see that could have messed me up. – user123264 Apr 26 at 14:18
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    @scaaahu when I asked the professors what I was being accused of and if I could set up a zoom meeting to discuss with them they said no and that there will be no further communication until the council contacts us so I did not get a chance to – user123264 Apr 26 at 14:19
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First thing you may want to do now is to read and understand the policies of your university related to how academic misconduct cases are processed. You may receive support from Student Support or similarly called unit in your university.

Typically the process goes like this: professors suspect a group of students of academic misconduct and file forms to the relevant person (responsible for academic misconduct). They quickly go through and decide which cases to dismiss instantly, and which to pass on to the misconduct committee panel.

If your case goes to the panel, you will be asked to come and respond to the evidence. Normally, it is sufficient to provide a brief explanation like the one you provided in you question here. A sensible panel will then dismiss the case without a penalty.

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Here is some general advice for when you are the subject of a an allegation of wrong-doing in the context of a university misconduct matter. Universities have procedures in place that create an orderly process for determining the nature of the allegation, obtaining relevant evidence, hearing the matter and making a determination. There is no sense in speculating on what it is that you are alleged to have done, or what the evidence of the allegation is, prior to being given this information in the formal process. Any misconduct process that comports with the requirements of due-process will provide you with a written statement of the allegation against you, and show you the evidence that supports that allegation. For a formal process of this kind, you should do the following:

  • Read all the relevant university policies relating to the process you are involved in, and identify the requirement to provide you with the allegation made against you, and the relevant points where you are given the opportunity to respond to allegations. Make sure you are familiar with the process, so that you know what rights you have and what you are required to do.

  • Ensure that you do not provide any statement or evidence unless and until you have been provided with a written statement of the allegation against you, clearly stating what you are alleged to have done wrong, and the evidence that supports this allegation. If you are asked to provide a statement or evidence prior to this, you should decline, and tell the relevant officials that you will respond after you have been provided with the statement of complaint against you. If you are called in for a meeting or hearing prior to receiving this statement, you should decline to attend. Alternatively, if you decide to attend, do not provide any information, and again simply state that you will respond after you have had an opportunity to review the written statement of complaint against you. (Also, do not respond contemporaneously in the meeting if they give you this statement; take at least a day to review and think about the matter.)

  • As a general rule, stay calm and be patient enough to wait for the written statement of complaint and evidence to be presented to you, and do not make any preliminary attempt to speculate on what the allegation or evidence might be. Do not be goaded into making any statement or giving any evidence until you have read the complaint against you, and a description of the evidence, and had time to think about how you want to respond.

  • Universities should have misconduct procedures that provide due process to the person accused of wrong-doing. Legal requirements for this differ according to the country and jurisdiction, and whether the university is private or public. (Public universities are generally bound by constitutional rules that are operative on the government.) For example, in US public universities, the defendent is generally entitled to notice of the allegations against them and a description of the evidence for those allegations (see e.g., Dixon v. Alabama State Board of Education 294 F.2d 150). In the event that your university either will not provide you with a written statement of the allegation, or expects you to provide pleadings or evidence prior to this, you should generally refuse, and put the university on notice that you expect lawful due-process.

  • Finally, notwithstanding the importance of due process, it is my view that if you are accused of some misconduct that you have in fact done, you should have the honesty and integrity to admit to that misconduct and take the resulting penalty, even if the misconduct would not have been proven. This is a good way to develop good character and hold yourself accountable for your actions. Others may take a more legalistic view, and you should feel free to use your own judgment, but I would recommend this principle.

  • Regarding your update: You need to calm down and take a deep breath. This situation falls directly within the scope of the above advice, and it is easy to handle. Since you have not been given the required written notice of the allegation, email the lead investigator and draw their attention to this requirement. Tell the investigator that you require written notice of the allegation and a description of the evidence, and that this should be provided to you at least five days in advance of the hearing. Tell the investigator in advance that you decline to attend the hearing, on the basis of lack of notice of the allegation against you.

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  • Thank you! as you can see I am clearly panicking – user123264 Apr 28 at 1:39
  • Yes, I can see that. People tend to get ahead of themselves in these situations, rather than just letting the process play out and making decisions at the relevant points. You have already established that you are entitled to written notice of the allegation and evidence five days before the hearing. Wait for this information before worrying about how you will respond, and do not agree to any meetings or hearings on the matter until then. – Ben Apr 28 at 1:43
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One should know that these "lockdown browser monitors" use a pretty loopy artificial intelligence to "determine" cheating behavior. I tested such a system in January, it was absolutely laughable what the system was reporting. Also, we managed to hack it in under 10 minutes. Your student council should be involved in deciding if such things should even be used, as they can produce both false positives and false negatives.

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