Attorneys for some of the Texas Christian University students suspended in a cheating scandal say the suspensions have been lifted.
The university has not confirmed as much, but it says every case is being appealed. The controversy revolves around a study app called Quizlet and students allegedly being able to get questions to tests before taking them.
It's the beginning of what defense attorney Leticia Martinez hopes is an about-face from TCU. She says all of her student clients who were suspended following accusations of cheating by the university have had that part of their punishment overturned.
"I'm hoping that means that the dean of the college is looking at this more closely and understanding that this was perhaps a rush to judgment,” Martinez said.
The students were accused of getting test answers for a class on interpersonal communication from Quizlet. Martinez says they were directed to Quizlet by a tutor employed by TCU. She says what they thought were practice questions turned out to be the actual test questions.
The university reportedly suspended about a dozen students and gave them a failed grade for the class. It also found them guilty of academic misconduct.
"Definitely shocking to them. They got called into the professor's office having no idea what was going on and then got accused of cheating,” their attorney said.
Although Martinez says the suspension is lifted, the finding of academic misconduct and the failed grade was not. She alleges the questions are the same from previous years' tests, saying those should have been changed.
"Unless the professor states, for example, on his syllabus if you find items on the internet that appear to be test items, come get it approved by me — that would be a simple solution to this,” Martinez said. “But instead, they are after the fact being held responsible because they didn't tell the professor it's time to change your exam.”
In a statement, the university did not confirm the suspensions were lifted. Instead, they said the cases are being appealed. It's also looking into its policies and procedures.
Martinez says changes are definitely in order.
"We need to communicate more clearly what is authorized and what is not authorized before you just call them and call them cheaters, give them a failing grade and suspending them,” she said. “It was just far too quick."
Martinez doesn't represent all of the students accused of cheating. Others have secured different attorneys or are not represented.
The attorney would not disclose how many of the dozen students accused of cheating she represented and said she will continue to advise them as the appeals process continues.