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Guidance on the Standard Sanction

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Some panelists have inquired about the purpose of the Standard Sanction in addition to when it is appropriate to deviate from it for violations of the Honor Code. The Board on Judicial Affairs, through this current guidance1, seeks to clarify the existing instructions in the Guide to the Penalty Code in addition to reaffirming the purpose and appropriateness of the Standard Sanction.2

Purpose/Appropriateness of the Standard Sanction:3

Since the 1970’s the Standard Sanction for first time violations of the Honor Code has been a one-quarter suspension and 40 hours of community service. Given concerns about the purpose and appropriateness of the current Standard Sanction for Honor Code violations, the Board hereby:

RESOLVES, that Standard Sanctions are essential to the integrity of the judicial process, serving as guides for future Panels and give students assurance that they will not be treated arbitrarily in the system. Standard sanctions also help responding students prepare their sanction statements to realistically assess the impact of possible sanctions on their Stanford career—something they could not do if sanctions depended on the whim of a Panel. Finally, the clarity of the Standard Sanction helps to deter students from violating the Honor Code.

RESOLVES FURTHER, that the Standard Sanction of a one-quarter suspension and 40 hours of community service is appropriate for most first time violations of the Honor Code. However, each case is different, and panels may take exceptional mitigating or aggravating circumstances into account during the sanctioning phase of the hearing.


The Board reaffirms and further clarifies its statement on plagiarism:

Intent of the Responding Student:

The Board has previously commented on how and when panels should weigh intent during the Panel Hearing.4 The Board reaffirms and hereby:

RESOLVES, that Academic carelessness, unfamiliarity with the rules, experience with different educational systems, claims of disability, and/or a lack of malice do not negate the existence of a violation of the Honor Code.

RESOLVES FURTHER, that even unintentional acts can constitute a violation of the Honor Code. Panels should reserve all questions surrounding the intent of a responding student for the sanctioning phase (if applicable).

Deviations and Appropriate Documentation:

In order to protect and uphold the integrity of the judicial process, the Board hereby:

RESOLVES, that it is the responsibility of the responding student to present documented evidence that a given sanction will, in fact, have an unduly harsh impact on them. Responding students are encouraged to consult with their Judicial Advisor early on in the process for advice on preparing sanction statements with appropriate documentation.

RESOLVES FURTHER, that panels may only consider evidence that is clear and convincing. Speculative or unsubstantiated claims should not be relied upon when considering whether to deviate from the Standard Sanction.

RESOLVES FINALLY, that the possibility of a particular impact does not merit a deviation from the Standard Sanction. Panels may not “assume the worst” when presented with speculative claims. Panels may only deviate based on facts.

  • For example, a student who argues that a suspension will delay her graduation by a full year, invalidate his F1-visa status, and/or forfeit her athletic or academic scholarship must present proof that such will indeed occur.

Nature of the Offense:

The Board recognizes that panels will sometimes hear exceptional cases where they feel the Standard Sanction is unduly harsh given the nature of the offense. We remind panelists that the fact-finding portion of the hearing must be divorced from the sanctioning phase. Panelists may not ignore or excuse violations of the Honor Code because they appear to be “minor” in nature. They must determine responsibility without consideration of sanctions.

However, once a student is found responsible (in addition to considering other mitigating or aggravating factors) panels may decide to deviate from the Standard Sanction when the nature of the offense would render the imposition of the Standard Sanction unduly harsh.

Examples of Exceptional Cases5:

  • Was the assignment an ungraded or insignificant one in the view of the Faculty?
    • e.g., RA Training, Summer Courses Prior to Freshman year, etc...
  • Is there convincing evidence that the violation occurred due to an honest mistake or accident in the student’s work?
    • e.g., Work contains an honest attempt to cite outside sources, but improper citation is used nonetheless.
  • Did the student show a sincere lack of intent6 and take full responsibility for his/her actions?
    • e.g. Student does not seek to blame others, but readily accepts his/her mistake. Student has also fully cooperated throughout the judicial process.
  • Suggested Sanction(s): Increased community service (80 hours) and a Suspended Suspension is suggested for these exceptional cases.
    • Panels may choose to offer incentives based on what type of community service a student performs.
      • e.g. Panel may assign 80 hours, but allow the student’s hours to count for double (up to 40 hours) for service spent educating other members of the Stanford Community about the Honor Code.

1. The OJA and Judicial Advisor will make this guidance available to all current and future panelists.
2. It should be noted that nearly all of the language in this memo is taken from various locations in the Guide to the Penalty Code, the 1997 Student Judicial Charter, and previous official statements from the BJA. This memo consolidates information from all of these sources for the benefit of panelists and others in addition to providing further clarification on existing guidelines and principles.
5. A full list of aggravating and mitigating circumstances can be found in the current Guide to the Penalty Code. This section simply clarifies how panels should take the “nature of the offense” into account when determining sanctions. The Board advises that in most cases (aside from other mitigating/aggravating factors) the nature of the offense will constitute a “typical” violation. However, we offer this guidance for when panels encounter exceptional cases. As always, panels have the full options of the penalty code available to them.
6. When determining a student’s intent, panels should also apply the reasonable person standard by asking whether or not a reasonable person in his/her situation should have been aware that his/her activities were wrong.

(Adopted by the Board on Judicial Affairs on May 24, 2011)