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Sanctioning Factors: Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances

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How Aggravating Circumstances Affect Sanctions

Judicial Panels take many factors into account when they consider what sanctions would be the most appropriate, given the facts and circumstances of the violation.

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Panelists Questions

Panelists will ask themselves such questions as:

  • What actually occurred?
  • What was the nature and extent of the harm/damages?
  • Does the student understand that his/her actions constituted a violation?
  • Has the student taken responsibility for the violation?

Because consistency and evenhandedness are essential to upholding the integrity of the judicial process, Panels rely on precedent ("case law") as a measuring guide for assessing sanctions. While many violations are factually basically the same, and would reasonably call for similar sanctions, Panels also may consider whether circumstances particular to that case, aggravating or mitigating in nature, would justify a different outcome.

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How to Make a Panel Aware of Aggravating or Mitigating Circumstances

Panels may consider the evidence of aggravating and/or mitigating circumstances presented in the evidentiary session and in the responding student’s sanction statement when they deliberate sanctions. At this stage of the proceedings, Panels will ask the Judicial Officer to disclose other aggravating or mitigating circumstances of which the Panel may not already be aware—such as whether the student has been found responsible for prior violations.

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Examples of Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances

Aggravating Circumstances

  • Does the evidence show the violation was premeditated?
  • Did the behavior continue throughout multiple assignments?
  • Was there an active attempt to conceal or hide the violation?
  • Was there physical, emotional or financial damage done to the university community or to another student?
  • Were there prior warnings for similar misconduct through university departments other than Judicial Affairs?
  • Was this a repeat violation?
  • Did the violation present a legitimate threat to the reputation and/or integrity of another student, individual, group, department, faculty or staff member?
  • Did this student implicate or try to implicate an innocent student or other individual in order to avoid detection or to deflect blame?
  • Did this student fabricate evidence to avoid detection or deflect blame?
  • Did this student intentionally cause unreasonable delays or exhibit a lack of respect for the judicial process or demonstrate a pattern of non-cooperation with the process?
  • Did the student threaten the reporting party, witnesses or others involved in the judicial process, or contact potential panelists?

Mitigating Circumstances

  • Is there convincing evidence that the student’s ability to think rationally at the time of the violation was impaired by serious personal circumstances?
  • Is there convincing evidence that the student was provoked or pressured into the situation, even though he/she made the conscious choice to participate?
  • Is there convincing evidence that the student was experiencing undue financial hardship at the time of the violation? Did the violation occur on an ungraded assignment or one considered insignificant by the teaching staff? (Note: Per the Basis of Grading Interpretation of the Honor Code, academic dishonesty on ungraded assignments is a violation of the Honor Code.)
  • Is there convincing evidence of a lack of intent to deceive and/or harm?
  • Is there clear and convincing evidence that the student has demonstrated sincere remorse for the violation?
  • Has the student clearly accepted responsibility for the violation?
  • Did the student take immediate steps to remedy and/or address relevant underlying personal issues that may have contributed to the violation?
  • Did the student cooperate fully and respectfully in the judicial process?