A friend of mine is finishing up a masters program and has applied to PhD programs around the nation last fall, as well as within the existing college. She had received several glowing letters of recommendation, including one from a professor of a current class (this last fall semester).
This professor has now accused my friend of cheating and collusion on the final examination with another student in the class; which is absolutely not the case. The final exam was a take-home, open-book, open-Internet exam of which one-of-three portions was multiple choice and she and the other student answered a large portion of their incorrect questions similarly--a red flag it seems. It should be said that every prior assignment working together was encouraged so it seems obvious that they would have similar notes and thought processes.
Now, here's where it gets messy: The professor is behaving as the prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. He told them both that the "data is irrefutable" and he "doesn't want an appeal from either of you - my mind is already made up." He has not followed the procedure for the school's academic integrity guidelines in any way which, most disturbingly, completely removes her ability to an appeal. He has made several academic threats such as going to the doctoral programs they have submitted to "let them know of this incident" if they do not show any "credible remorse." He has decided he will come up with a secondary exam that can do nothing but be combined with and hurt their existing final exam grade.
Obviously, my friend is frustrated, angry, stressed out and frightened at these events, especially during this fragile time of waiting for responses to her applications.
So what can be done? The obvious thing would be to go to his department chairs herself and bring to light this ludicrous behavior and, if found that integrity is in question appeal the decision. But this would bring along one major issue: Once done the professor will surely reach out the academic programs to retract their recommendation, which one would assume would look incredibly bad to an admissions committee. She also has an "incomplete" in this class until this is resolved which is assumed to be--or will be--affecting the current school's PhD program application. He truly has her powerless and backed into a corner.
What would you do knowing this decision could affect your entire future, academic and beyond? (This is in the US, if that matters)
Edit for clarification for secondary exam: The professor would not give my friend the new exam until he was able to talk to her on the phone. Her initial and current desire is to just get the exam and complete it to get this whole thing over with without affecting her applications; but she has no intention of admitting any guilt. The professor seems quite annoyed that she did not show remorse or admit any wrongdoing when asking for the exam (I was not there, but his email providing the exam said that the conversation "did not go as he anticipated" and did "little to alleviate his concern," I'm assuming because she did not admit to cheating).
As for the secondary exam, he has given her about half of original multiple choice questions from the first exam, some of which she answered correctly and some of which she did not. His stipulation is that any wrong answers will bring down her final exam score further from what she scored initially and any correct answers will not affect the grade positively or negatively. He has withheld her final exam this entire time so she has no idea which questions she actually answered incorrectly, but this also forbids her from verifying any of his claims as well. Further, she will have to complete additional long-form essays again, which he has not come up with yet.
He has also given her the option of not completing the secondary exam and taking a full letter grade off of her final grade (likely, a B-) and has told her he will not give her anything higher than a B+. I assume she has an A- but, again, she doesn't know how she did on the exam. He has said that he "really wants to give them both a B+" for what that is worth.