Rice University

Location: Houston, Texas
Website: http://www.rice.edu
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 5th Circuit

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Speech Code Rating

Rice University has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.

At present, FIRE has not been involved in any cases at this school.
Yellow Light Policies
  • Code of Student Conduct: Proscribed Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: October 1, 2018

    a. Mental or Bodily Harm, Reckless Action or Disregard: Intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict mental or bodily harm on any person, including on the charged student; taking any reckless action, or showing reckless disregard, from which mental or bodily harm could result to any person, including to the charged student. This includes, but is not limited to, actual or attempted behavior that includes

    i. physical abuse of all types, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion,

    ii. sexual assault, other forms of sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking, and sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based misconduct,

    » Read More

  • Code of Student Conduct: Proscribed Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: January 26, 2018

    [U]se of computational facilities to send obscene, abusive, harassing or threatening messages or to engage in stalking behavior or to repeatedly send unwanted email to individuals.

    » Read More

  • Rice University General Policy No. 802-82: Use of University Facilities and Scheduling Campus Events

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: October 1, 2018

    1. For these events, the use of a Residential College facility requires the approval of the Master of that College.* The use of the facilities of the Athletic Department for an athletic event requires the approval of the Director of Athletics. The use of any other University facility for an event requires the approval of the Director of Student Activities.

    2. A request for the use of a University facility (made in accordance with Section A-6 below) will be approved provided that a) the facility requested is available, adequate and appropriate for the proposed use at the time requested; b) the proposed use excludes fund solicitation or commercial solicitation other than the sale of official University items; c) the campus organization making the request is able to meet the financial obligations to be incurred by the proposed use; d) the proposed use will not constitute an immediate and actual danger to the peace or security of the University, its members, or participants in the use; e) the proposed use does not violate any federal, state or local law.

    6. Requests for the use of a facility are to be made in person or in writing to the Master, the Director of Athletics or the Director of Student Activities, as appropriate (see Section A-1 above), no less than seven (7) days prior to the date of the proposed use.

    » Read More

  • General Announcements: Student Responsibility

    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes
    Last updated: January 26, 2018

    The university … reserves the right to insist on the withdrawal of any student whose conduct it judges to be clearly detrimental to the best interests of either the student or the university. The appropriate authorities take such action only after careful consideration.

    » Read More

  • Policy No. 830-01: Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: January 26, 2018

    Unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, and other unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when: … Such conduct is reasonably regarded as offensive and has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with the educational or work opportunities of students, staff, faculty or colleagues, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational or working environment. If it takes place in the teaching context, it must also be persistent, pervasive, and not germane to the subject matter.

    Examples of the kinds of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment include, but are not limited to: … Unwelcome verbal or written expressions of a sexual nature, including graphic sexual commentaries about a person’s body, dress, appearance, or sexual activities; the unwelcome use of sexually degrading language, jokes or innuendoes; unwelcome suggestive or insulting sounds or whistles; obscene phone calls. … Sexually suggestive objects, pictures, videotapes, audio recordings or literature, placed in the work or study area, that may offend individuals.

    » Read More


Green Light Policies
  • Faculty Handbook: Faculty Rights, Privileges, and Responsibilities

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: January 26, 2018

    The law recognizes in academic freedom a principal means of safeguarding free expression throughout society. In Keyishian, Justice Brennan put academic freedom at the very core of First Amendment protections. Two other justices, Felix Frankfurter in Sweezy v. New Hampshire (1957) and Lewis Powell in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), saw fit to incorporate into their opinions a still more expansive definition of academic freedom, the “Statement of Remonstrance” addressed to the government of South Africa by senior scholars at the Open Universities of Cape Town and Witwaterstrand. “A university ceases to be true to its own nature,” they wrote, “if it becomes the tool of Church or State or any sectional interest. A university is characterized by the spirit of free inquiry, its ideal being that of Socrates — to follow the argument where it leads… . It is the business of a university to provide that atmosphere which is most conducive to speculation, experiment, and creation. It is an atmosphere in which there prevail the four essential freedoms of a university — to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study.”

    Quite apart from its value to society at large, freedom of expression is the enabling precondition of the academic enterprise, for where people hesitate to speak their mind, critical thinking has no purchase and the university cannot even begin to carry out its mission. That is why academic freedom and its material complement, tenure, have become defining features of university life. But because free expression can be deeply disturbing, none of us, whether inside or outside of the academy, is immune to the temptation to suppress offensive speech by force, censorship, or intimidation. It is accordingly incumbent on each individual associated with the university — whether as student, teacher, administrator or trustee — to exercise the vigilance and self-restraint without which freedom of expression cannot flourish. In the university, even more than in democratic society at large, the principle of free thought must prevail, not just “free thought for those who agree with us,” as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. warned in U.S. v. Schwimmer (1928), but “freedom for the thought we hate.”

    […]

    The best response to offensive speech is neither silence nor censorship, but more speech, preferably cast in the form of arguments exposing the inadequacies of that which offends. Of all the institutions of society, the university is the one most deeply committed to the sublimation of conflict into reasoned argumentation. Far from being a scene of indiscriminate toleration where “freedom of expression” degenerates into “anything goes,” Rice University, like other universities, is properly a forum for judgment and mutual criticism, in which all opinions are entitled to a respectful hearing, none is exempt from criticism, and only those that earn acceptance on their intellectual merits remain in circulation.

    » Read More

  • Rice University Policy No. 832: APPROPRIATE USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: January 26, 2018

    Any communication, which is defamatory, harassing, interferes with other uses of University resources or constitutes an improper disclosure of protected University or sensitive personal data is prohibited.

    » Read More

  • Rice University General Policy No. 820-75: PICKETING, DEMONSTRATIONS, AND NON-UNIVERSITY SPONSORED MEETINGS

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: October 1, 2018

    One of the University’s functions is to provide a forum for the orderly expression and discussion of various points of view. Members of the University Community, acting as individuals and not in the name of the University or any of its component parts, have the right to express their opinions, to picket, and to hold demonstrations or meetings on campus so long as such activities do not violate local, state, or federal laws, and so long as University functions are not disrupted and access to any part of the campus is not impeded. The University reserves the right to limit the locations on campus where picketing, demonstrations or meetings may be held when such action is necessary for the preservation of order and safety.

    » Read More


At present, FIRE does not maintain information on this school's policies.
  • Speech Code Countdown: ‘U.S. News’ Top 25 College Rankings, Numbers 19-11

    October 6, 2016

    FIRE’s U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” Countdown continues today. We’re giving you a school-by-school analysis of just how well America’s “Best Colleges” do when it comes to protecting free speech on campus. Unfortunately, in today’s crop of top campuses, troubling speech codes abound. As part of FIRE’s fresh look at U.S. News’ top-ranked colleges, we used information from our Spotlight speech code database as well as information on other headline-making free speech news that applicants should know about before they apply to a given school. FIRE rates schools’ speech codes using a traffic light-inspired system. A “red light” […]

    » Read More
  • Rice University Student Stands Up for Free Speech in ‘The Rice Thresher’

    November 22, 2011

    Pro tip: If your speech silences someone else’s speech, there’s a good chance that your speech is no longer protected. That is the subject of an op-ed last week in The Rice Thresher by Rice University student Anthony Lauriello, titled “Eric Cantor protests at Rice University an affront to open discourse and free speech.” According to the column, protestors at a recent speaking engagement from Congressman Eric Cantor on Rice’s campus began shouting down the congressman as he reached the podium to speak. The protestors were escorted from the event, and Rice President David Leebron stood up to note that […]

    » Read More
  • Rice Editorial Misses the Point on Free Speech

    March 27, 2009

    An editorial in Rice University’s student newspaper, The Rice Thresher, recently took FIRE to task for giving Rice a “red-light” rating for maintaining policies that censor student speech. As FIRE explained in the blog post that drew the Thresher‘s attention, Rice’s red-light rating is because of its policy on Appropriate Use of Information Technology Resources. That policy prohibits, among other things, “[t]ransmitting unsolicited … material which explicitly or implicitly refers to sexual conduct” and “[t]ransmitting … unsolicited information that contains profane language or panders to bigotry, sexism, or other forms of prohibited discrimination.” FIRE noted that such a policy could […]

    » Read More
  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: Rice University

    March 9, 2009

    Throughout the spring semester, FIRE is drawing special attention to the state of free speech at America’s top 25 national universities (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report). Today we review policies at Rice University, which FIRE has given a red-light rating for maintaining a policy that clearly and substantially restricts free expression on campus. Like so many private universities, Rice presents itself as an institution that values individual freedoms. Rice’s Student Handbook provides: One of the University’s functions is to provide a forum for the orderly expression and discussion of various points of view. Members of the University […]

    » Read More

Policies are rated on their inclusion of 10 due process safeguards. Each policy may receive 2 points for fully including that safeguard, 1 point for partial inclusion, and 0 points for no meaningful inclusion. Most, but not all, institutions have separate policies for sexual misconduct and all other misconduct. See FIRE’s Spotlight on Due Process report for more information.

Grades

Non-Sexual Misconduct

D
7/20
  • Presumption of innocence
  • Adequate and timely notice
  • Adequate time to prepare
  • Conflicts of interest prohibited
  • Right to challenge fact-finders
  • Access to all evidence
  • Right to face accuser and witness
  • Active participation of counsel
  • Meaningful right to appeal
  • Expulsion must be unanimous

Sexual Misconduct

D
7/20
  • Presumption of innocence
  • Adequate and timely notice
  • Adequate time to prepare
  • Conflicts of interest prohibited
  • Right to challenge fact-finders
  • Access to all evidence
  • Right to face accuser and witness
  • Active participation of counsel
  • Meaningful right to appeal
  • Expulsion must be unanimous