Question: Can I get dismissed from the university I have been attending for cheating during an examination?
A third-year medical student at Indiana University School of Medicine was attending medical school on scholarship. On March 29, 2010, the student sat for an examination. Three professors observed him during the examination and concluded that he was cheating by looking at the paper of the student to his right. The student denied that he cheated or that he engaged in any behavior that gave the appearance of cheating. Instead, he claimed he was merely looking over and up at the clock on the wall of the testing room. Later, the student was informed that based upon his responses, written documentation and the three witnesses as well as the results of field tests which evaluated his contention that he was merely looking at the clock, the school believed that the preponderance of evidence supports the charge of ethical misconduct (cheating) during the mini-block exam. The letter reminded him that, pursuant to the medical school’s Student Handbook, “Dishonesty of any kind with respect to examinations … shall be considered cheating. It is the responsibility of the student not only to abstain from cheating but, in addition, to avoid the appearance of cheating…” Later, the Dean advised him that he would not reverse the SPC’s recommendation and that he was dismissed from the school. On August 25, 2010, the student filed a verified complaint for temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, permanent injunction, and other relief against IUSM. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the application for preliminary injunction. The trial court then proceeded to make other rulings resulting in an appeal.
On appeal, the Court noted that the legal relationship between a student and a university as one of implied contract. Accordingly, although an implied contract exists between the student and the university, the nature of the terms will vary. The university requires that the student’s academic performance be satisfactory to the university in its honest judgment. Absent a showing of bad faith on the part of the university or a professor, the court will not interfere. The good faith judgment model both maximizes academic freedom and provides an acceptable approximation of the educational expectations of the parties. In this context, bad faith is not simply bad judgment or negligence, rather, it implies the conscious doing of a wrong because of dishonest purpose or moral obliquity. Literal adherence by a university to its internal rules will not be required when the dismissal of a student rests upon expert judgments as to academic or professional standards and such judgments are fairly and non-arbitrarily arrived at. In other words, the sole function of courts is to determine whether the educational institution acted illegally, arbitrarily, capriciously, or in bad faith.
In this case, the student failed to designate any evidence to indicate that IUSM’s decision to dismiss him was arbitrary, capricious, or made in bad faith. IUSM’s conclusion that he failed to maintain acceptable professional standards was a rational determination arrived at after much deliberation and after he had numerous opportunities to be heard and to explain his behavior. We note that our judicial deference to the foregoing expert judgments as to his failure to meet professional standards is dictated by the fact that the administrators and directors of IUSM have a duty to the public as well as to the student. To place incompetent, irresponsible, or unethical doctors into active practice would surely be to the detriment of the health and safety of the members of society. Accordingly, trial court’s entry of summary judgment is upheld. Amaya v. Brater, 981 N.E.2d 1235 (Ind.App. 2013).