A throwaway account for this issue I need advice in. I am in an engineering course and had an online exam (thanks to COVID-19) with no form of protection for cheating, just an "open now, turn in within 2 hours" exam. I spent way too much time perfecting one particular question (I blame my diagnosed test anxiety for that part of this situation), so I, quite moronically may I add, used a resource that I was not allowed to use. I got an email from the instructor saying that I was accused of cheating.
After fainting once and vomiting twice I read the message and learned that I had 2 options. First of which is to refute and provide evidence in contrary of the accusation, for which I had none. The second option was to accept a zero-marking on the heftily-weighted question, but keep the grade and accept it as the grade on the exam. This was quite a lenient punishment as it was outlined in the syllabus that any form of cheating on any exam will result in a 0 on said exam and a failure within the course. I can only attribute this to the fact that I always went to lecture, actively took notes, asked many questions, and sat in the front row (really like ALL students should do). Therefore, I accepted that option and still ended up with a passing average in the class, because I worked extremely hard to understand the material well (I am not an academically gifted person, may I add.).
Along with both options, a report of academic misconduct will be reported to the chair of the engineering department of my discipline. From there I am unsure where the situation will go. The university does not have any set-in-stone rules for a situation like this within the academic policy or student guideline book, which is where I turn to Academia. I have never done anything of this sort and I am unsure on where to turn or where to go next, depending on where this situation escalates to.
I also fear for my eligibility for security clearances once I graduate (United States). I only fear that this will be seen as a major, major red flag and may result in me unable to gain said clearance, even though I have nothing on my record (not even as minor as a traffic stop). I feel like that will most definitely ruin my career (rightfully so if so, may I add), as any form of my work will most likely require said clearance. But, having never gotten a clearance before, I am unsure about how it will be affected. To anyone who has experience in this realm, is this a major red flag? Should I switch majors now to something where I can get a job without one?
Regardless of any switching majors, if I lose my academic scholarship for the university (again, rightfully so), I will be forced to drop and/or go far into debt to complete my academic career. Most definitely worth it if so, but still upsetting. Again, this is not set in stone anywhere within the documentation I have access to, so would something like this be a possible/fitting punishment for my academic dishonesty?
I thoroughly understand that this shows that I have little experience in a particular realm of this class, and that in the workforce, if I make a mistake due to it, I may cost lives. If anything, that's the most sickening part of this whole situation. For that reason, I am currently re-studying all material within the class and making sure that I will keep the knowledge that I have been taught. But employers, would you even consider hiring someone like me if you found this out?
I really appreciate anyone reading this. Please leave any comments about my integrity to the comment section, and not the answer section.