Faculty members enjoy a great measure of professional autonomy. Collectively, they have a primary role in deciding who will teach, what will be taught, what students will be expected to learn, and they play an important role in institutional governance. Individually, they have considerable freedom in pursuing their scholarly and educational work. Faculty members also have a number of rights and privileges, including the right to academic freedom and, for those who have earned it, the privilege of tenure. But faculty autonomy, rights, and privileges are combined with professional responsibilities; and this combination of rights and responsibilities shapes to an important degree the roles of faculty members.
Rice University makes decisions concerning the appointments and promotions of faculty members, the assignment of teaching and other academic duties, the support and sponsorship of scholarly research, and the granting or withholding of benefits and the imposition of burdens without regard to political, social, or other views not directly related to academic responsibilities.
"Academic Freedom ... is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom ... . The classroom is peculiarly the marketplace of ideas. The Nation's future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth out of a multitude of tongues, [rather] than through any kind of authoritative selection." Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967)
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."
Liberating though its influence has been, academic freedom, like other freedoms in civil society, carries with it an implicit burden of self-restraint, not only in responding to the views of others, but also in expressing one's own views. The American Association of University Professors, founded in 1915 specifically to cultivate and defend the rights of academic freedom, has consistently acknowledged the need for restraint. The most authoritative statement of the rights of academic freedom as they exist today is the AAUP's "1940 Statement of Principles." It defines three facets of academic freedom (freedom of inquiry, teaching, and extramural utterance) and explicitly calls attention to the limits of each:
(a) Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.
(b) Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.
(c) College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.
The ideal of freedom of expression can be a hard taskmaster, especially when we are deciding how to respond to expression that offends us. The burdens it imposes are most eloquently expressed in the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale (1975), a thoughtful examination of one university's mixed successes and failures during the campus disruptions of the 1960s and 70s, when controversial speakers were sometimes silenced by well-meaning protesters.
If freedom of expression is to serve its purpose, and thus the purpose of the university, it should seek to enhance understanding. Shock, hurt, and anger are not consequences to be weighed lightly. No member of the community with a decent respect for others should use, or encourage others to use, slurs and epithets intended to discredit another's race, ethnic group, religion, or sex. [But] it may sometimes be necessary in a university for civility and mutual respect to be superseded by the need to guarantee free expression. The values superseded are nevertheless important, and every member of the university community should consider them in exercising the fundamental right to free expression.... [Still,] if the university's overriding commitment to free expression is to be sustained, secondary social and ethical responsibilities must be left to the informal processes of suasion, example, and argument.
Tolerating offensive expression does not mean putting up with slander, defamation, "fighting words," or gratuitous personal insults. Neither does it mean abstention from judgment. What freedom of expression requires is not passivity in the face of expressions that offend, but a readiness to debate openly differences of opinion in a spirit at once candid and civil. 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.
The foregoing section, "Academic Freedom and Free Expression," was approved unanimously by Faculty Council of Rice University on April 27, 1999. For more details about academic freedom, see:
William Van Alstyne, "Academic Freedom and the First Amendment in the Supreme Court of the United States: An Unhurried Historical Review," in Freedom and Tenure in the Academy: The 50th Anniversary of the 1940 Statement of Principles, ed. W. Van Alstyne (Durham: Duke University School of Law, 1990).
"1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure," in American Association of University Professors, Policy Documents and Reports, 1995 Edition (Washington DC: AAUP, 1995).
Copies of the complete Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale are available in the offices of the president, provost, and Faculty Council and in the Woodson Research Center in Fondren Library.
Academic tenure protects faculty members from being dismissed for teaching, researching, or inquiring into areas that might be politically or commercially controversial. The process of exploring and expanding the frontiers of knowledge often challenges the established order. Tenure is valuable not merely as a protection for individual faculty members but also as an assurance to society that the pursuit of truth and knowledge commands the faculty's first priority. The privileges of tenure include: (a) continued employment as an associate professor or professor until voluntary retirement or resignation, with the possible exception of dismissal for cause or termination due to the discontinuation or reduction of a program, (b) equitable compensation and benefits, (c) continued institutional support for teaching and scholarship, and (d) continued involvement in the academic mission of the university.
Because tenure is a privilege with the purpose of protecting academic freedom, it is offered after extremely careful deliberation and only to those faculty members who have demonstrated an unusual capacity for a lifetime of scholarship, teaching, and service. Tenure does not protect demonstrated incompetence in teaching and research, substantial and manifest neglect of duty, or serious misconduct. A tenured professor who faces such charges may be dismissed for cause through proceedings carefully crafted to assure academic due process. A tenured professor may also be dismissed because the university has in good faith decided to discontinue or reduce a program, department, or other segment of the university. The decision to discontinue or reduce a program will be implemented only after consideration of the educational, economic, and other aspects of the decision, and review by the Board of Trustees. An effort will be made to ease any dislocation experienced by the faculty members involved. See Policy 201 "Faculty Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure."
Having tenure does not mean that a professor is free from review. Rice reviews all faculty members annually to consider salary adjustments. In addition, department chairs hold periodic performance reviews with all departmental faculty members to evaluate and encourage their professional growth according to a schedule and a procedure described in Policy 214-03 "Faculty Performance Reviews." These routine professional reviews are distinct and separate from individualized disciplinary procedures that might lead to dismissal for cause.
Research, teaching, and service are all essential obligations of Rice faculty members. Full time Rice University faculty members owe their primary professional allegiance to Rice University, and their primary commitment of time and energy to these goals. But because long-term success in teaching and continued effective service to Rice and other communities depend on intellectual vitality, scholarship is the foundation of academic life at Rice. Members of the Rice faculty are, therefore, expected to engage in research, reflection, and publication or in other creative efforts that expand knowledge or enrich cultural life. These demanding scholarly and creative undertakings are fundamental to the educational work of the university -- not just to graduate but also to undergraduate education.
In the words of Edgar Odell Lovett, "the most distinguished teachers must take their part in undergraduate teaching, and their spirit should dominate it all." The faculty should, therefore, devote considerable time and thought to their teaching -- to keeping abreast of new scholarly work in their fields, to preparing carefully for their classes, and to being reasonably available to their students outside of class for advice, counseling, and instruction. They should also become familiar with academic regulations for students described in the General Announcements (especially "Faculty Grading Guidelines" and "Syllabus Standards Policy") and with the Honor System.
In addition to their scholarly research and teaching, faculty members are expected to serve their departments, schools, and the university. They have a primary responsibility to: (a) determine the curriculum, subject matter, methods of instruction, and other academic standards and processes, (b) establish the requirements for earning degrees, and (c) evaluate the appointment, reappointment, promotion, and tenure of faculty members. In these capacities they are making collective recommendations to the administration and governing boards on academic standards and policy and on faculty status. The faculty are also encouraged to take part in college life as associates and masters (see Section III.F), to serve on departmental and university committees, to stand for election for Faculty Senate, to shoulder various administrative responsibilities by serving as directors of centers and institutes or as department chairs (see Policy 103-95 "Policies Related to Department Chairs"), and to serve the public through professional organizations and community outreach activities.
In fulfilling their obligations, faculty members are expected to have a substantial presence on campus during the academic year, beginning with freshman orientation and ending with commencement, which they are expected to attend. A member of the faculty with research projects or other commitments requiring a lengthy absence from the campus during the academic year should apply through her/his department chair to the president's office for a leave for the period in question. See Section VII.B below for guidelines on normal professional travel and Policy 206-71 "Summer Recess for Faculty Members."
More generally, membership in the academic profession carries with it special responsibilities. Faculty members should demonstrate ethical behavior in their professional dealings with students, colleagues, staff, and persons outside the university. As teachers, they should encourage the free pursuit of learning, holding to the best scholarly and ethical standards of their disciplines. Faculty members have obligations to their colleagues that derive from common membership in the community of scholars. In the exchange of criticism and ideas, they should respect the opinions of others and defend the free inquiry of associates. As members of an academic institution, faculty members should recognize that their paramount responsibilities are within the university and give due regard to these responsibilities in determining the level of activities that they can assume outside the university. Specific responsibilities differ across schools and departments, but should be based on a general understanding between the school dean or department chair and the faculty member. At times, a conflict of commitment may arise when a faculty member undertakes external commitments that burden or interfere with their primary commitment to Rice University. For more information on what constitutes a conflict of commitment, see the relevant section included in Policy 216, "Conflict of Interest and Commitment for Faculty (Including Faculty Fellows and Investigators)."
Faculty members have a particular responsibility to support the university's Honor Code. That code provides a fair and university-sanctioned way to review claims of academic misconduct by students. If faculty members suspect a violation of the honor code, they should report the suspected violation to the Honor Council as described on its website (http://honor.rice.edu/).The Honor Council's website provides a useful overview of the Honor Council's procedures, as well as faculty members' role in the process. According to the Honor System Constitution, all faculty are responsible for communicating to their class the specific Honor Code policy for each assignment through the syllabus or on the assignment itself.
Please note that the Graduate Honor Council (GHC) reviews claims regarding graduate students. The GHC website can be viewed here: gradhonor.rice.edu
Faculty members and course instructors are required to provide a course syllabus to students on or before the first day of class. The syllabus should be uploaded into ESTHER, and may additionally be distributed in hard copy and/or on OWL-Space. For archiving purposes, updated versions of the course syllabus can be uploaded into ESTHER through the end of the semester. Each syllabus must include the following instructions:
Changes in the procedures to create new courses were approved by Faculty Senate in November 2015 with the goal of enhancing faculty oversight of the curriculum.
Creating a course
For new courses that will be active for the Fall 2016 semester and beyond, and for reactivation of currently inactive courses, faculty will use the revised New Course Request Form and observe the following deadline for submitting forms to the appropriate Dean for signatures:
New Procedures for creating or reactivating undergraduate courses now include:
NOTE: There is no SCRC review for graduate courses. The signatures and process for graduate courses remains unchanged.
New Course Request Forms and full information and instructions are available on the Office of the Registrar webpage: http://registrar.rice.edu/facstaff/courseprocess/.
Faculty members are expected to advise Rice students. The faculty are organized within their departments to assist undergraduate majors and graduate students in planning their courses of study and their subsequent careers. Those faculty who also serve as divisional advisors, associates, and magisters in the residential colleges help freshmen and sophomores choose courses and adjust to college life.
In certain cases, a faculty member may need specific information concerning advising questions, may want to refer a student to the Office of Academic Advising (OAA), or may need help identifying students at risk. In such cases, the Office of Academic Advising's website (https://oaa.rice.edu) may be of help.
Faculty should also be aware that students have a clearly established right to privacy under the Federal Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (or Buckley amendment). The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) generally provides that the education records of students -- including grades, graded assignments or exams, records, and letters of recommendation -- may not be disclosed to third parties without the student's written consent. For an undergraduate or graduate student, parents are considered to be "third parties" according to this law, and a faculty member would violate FERPA if he or she were to discuss the student's grades with the parents without the student's written consent. If the faculty member or department chair feels the need to discuss a student's academic performance with the parents, the faculty member or the chair should first discuss it with the student and get the student's written consent. Alternatively, the student may already have filed with the Office of the Registrar a consent allowing discussions with parents. The Office of the Registrar may, then, be consulted, but faculty members' assumption, until they have obtained or confirmed a student's written consent, should be that they are not permitted to talk with parents about a student's education record. There are some exceptions to this rule, but a professor should assume no exception without discussion with a chair or dean or legal counsel.
Under FERPA, there is also a standard for disclosures of student education records within the institution. If a professor has a legitimate educational interest and needs to obtain protected information as part of his or her job responsibilities relating to that student, then the professor may have access to the information, but they may not further disclose it unless it is to someone else who also has a legitimate educational interest. More information on FERPA is available through the Registrar or at: https://registrar.rice.edu/ferpa.
Faculty members who need assistance with their teaching or research may be able to employ students. Faculty should see their departmental coordinators for information on work/study or other programs that support students while they work within the university. In some cases, there may be opportunities to give students course credit in place of monetary rewards for appropriate academic efforts.
The Rice University staff includes literally hundreds of talented individuals. These women and men support the faculty through department, school, and university offices. They maintain and develop the library and a variety of laboratories; they schedule classes and keep academic records; they provide meals throughout the university; and they keep the campus safe and attractive. The staff works very hard to serve the university community and to carry out policies they rarely establish. They deserve the respect, appreciation, and consideration of all members of the faculty.
Faculty grievance is a grievance against an action, judged by a faculty member to be unjust or unfair, that affects directly and adversely academic freedom, economic conditions, professional status, or some other circumstance of employment. Included among such grievances are disputes relating to the interpretation of an appointment letter, enforcement of university policies governing faculty conduct, and decisions such as assignment of academic duties. The most immediate appeal in case of a faculty grievance should be made to the appropriate university official. If this appeal fails to remedy the situation, then a further appeal should be directed to higher-level officials. Thus, if the department chair cannot resolve the dispute, the appeal should go to the appropriate dean, and, if that also fails, to the provost. If none of these appeals is successful, then a faculty member may file a grievance. Grievances are handled by the Appeals and Grievances Committee of the Faculty Senate, following the Faculty Senate Rules for Appeals and Grievances. This committee will hear two kinds of cases: appeals concerning whether proper university procedures have been followed (for example, in decisions on promotion and tenure) and grievances regarding any matter of concern (except decisions on promotion and tenure, which are subject only to procedural appeals). After hearing the case, the committee will submit a report with recommendations to the president with a copy to the speaker of the Faculty Senate and to the appellant or grievant. If the grievance is not resolved by this process, the faculty member may request a formal hearing as outlined in Procedure for Investigating Accusations.
Membership in the academic community imposes on faculty members, university officials, and students an obligation to respect the dignity of others, to acknowledge their right to express differing opinions, and to foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction, and free expression on and off campus. It is therefore the policy of Rice University to provide an environment that is free from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, gender, age, disability or veteran status. Any discriminatory conduct seriously undermines the atmosphere of trust and respect that is essential to a healthy academic environment.
Furthermore, it is Rice University's policy to take affirmative action to ensure equality of opportunity in all aspects of employment. Members of the Rice faculty share with the administration responsibility for sustaining this policy and should work with the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action to ensure that women and individuals from minority groups will have an equal opportunity to be considered for and appointed to faculty positions. The following policies describe Rice's affirmative action guidelines in greater detail: Policy 815 "Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Policy," and Policy 821 "Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Statement for Use on Publications and Advertisements," and the September 18, 1997, Resolution of the Board of Governors: "The Rice University Commitment to Cultural Inclusiveness."
Sexual harassment is prohibited by law. It is the policy of Rice University to provide an environment that is free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment may involve the behavior of a person of either sex against a person of the opposite or same sex and occurs when such behavior constitutes unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, and other unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature where:
submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's education or employment; submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for academic or employment decisions affecting the individual's welfare; or such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's welfare, academic or work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, offensive, or demeaning education or work environment.
This policy applies to all members of the university community, who are encouraged to report promptly complaints about sexual harassment. Persons found to be in violation of this sexual harassment policy will be subject to disciplinary action that may include, but is not limited to, written warning, demotion, transfer, suspension, or dismissal. See also the full text of Policy 830-01, "Rice University Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures."
Amorous relationships between faculty members and students are problematic even if they do not involve sexual harassment, as described in the preceding section, and even if they involve mutual consent. This is due to the "inherently unequal positions" of the individuals involved and the "potential for such serious consequences" resulting from such relationships. As such, many of these amorous relationships do not, in the view of the Faculty Senate, conform to the professional standards of the university. With this concern in mind, the Faculty Senate approved a new "Rice Faculty Statement on Consensual, Amorous Relations with Students."
In that statement, the Senate points to the potential hazards such relations pose not just to our students but also to third parties and to the larger university environment:
"In an academic setting such romantic or sexual relationships conflict with the implicit trust we encourage our students to enjoy vis-à-vis their professors, may negatively impact the university environment when they begin to affect third parties, can result in emotional and psychological damage, and always have the potential for an abuse of power that constitutes unprofessional conduct. We hold that consensual romantic or sexual relationships between faculty and undergraduate students, and between faculty and graduate students over whom the faculty member has direct or indirect professional responsibility, violate professional ethics and may be subject to disciplinary action, including such severe sanctions as suspension or dismissal."
In other words, complaints about amorous relations need not require that specific harm be shown; the existence of certain amorous relations may subject a faculty member to disciplinary action. The Faculty Senate noted three especially problematic relationships that might merit sanctions:
It is the faculty member's responsibility as a professional to avoid such a situation, or if a conflict of interest becomes possible, to inform the provost "as soon as one becomes aware of the potential conflict," or to consult with the provost or dean if in doubt. The Faculty Senate urges faculty members to "err on the side of disclosure" in such matters. Even merely potential conflicts of interest may, if left unaddressed, create a situation in which perceptions of favoritism or unfair treatment could provoke complaints or sexual harassment charges by third parties.
More information on the procedures for disclosing and investigating amorous relations are available in the "Rice Faculty Statement on Consensual, Amorous Relations with Students."
Dismissal of faculty members with tenure or with a term appointment before the end of the term can occur only for cause. Adequate cause for dismissal must be related directly and substantially to the fitness of a faculty member in his/her professional capacity as teacher and scholar. A faculty member will be dismissed for cause only after he/she has had an opportunity for a formal hearing by a Faculty Hearing Panel convened for the express purpose of considering dismissal for cause. The procedure to be followed during dismissal hearings is established by the Faculty Senate. This procedure ensures an opportunity for a dignified, careful, and fair hearing, guaranteeing due process. Following the hearing, the panel will weigh the evidence and give the president a written report, containing its findings and recommendations. The final decision will be made by the president after reviewing the report. If he/she rejects the report, both the panel and the faculty member will have an opportunity for further comment before the case is transmitted to the board. Pending a final report by the panel, the administration can suspend the accused faculty member with full pay only if there is a threat of harm to persons or property. No severe sanction may be imposed on any faculty member without due process. Thus, if the administration believes that the behavior of a faculty member is grave enough to warrant strong punitive action, the case must be evaluated by a procedure identical to that used in investigating charges warranting dismissal. See Policy 201 "Faculty Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure" and "Procedures for Investigating Accusations Warranting Severe Sanctions, Including Dismissal, Against Faculty Members."
Rice University's Office of Public Affairs provides comprehensive communications strategies and services across a spectrum of activities: news and media relations, marketing, government relations, community relations, multicultural community outreach, and creative services, which include publications, web development, social media, photography, videography, design, writing, and editing. Public Affairs professionals work with faculty members to publicize their work and help handle media inquiries, and are assigned to specific beats to develop relationships and disseminate information about teaching and research by individual faculty, research teams, departments, and institutes. Public Affairs also handles a spectrum of internal communications and produces a weekly digital newsletter, Rice News, and a daily digital newsletter that compiles media mentions of Rice, Dateline Rice. The creative services team produces about 400 communications products a year, including the university's flagship journal, Rice Magazine. For more information, see the Office of Public Affairs.
Rice encourages faculty members to share their accomplishments with the public. However, faculty have a responsibility to speak and write with accuracy and with respect for the opinions of others. The faculty should make clear when they speak on their own authority and when they speak as advocates for any group, including the university.
Faculty members acting as individuals and not in the name of the university 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 (see Policy 802-82 "Use of University Facilities and Scheduling Campus Events"). Any event sponsored or presented by faculty members or campus organizations must adhere to the procedures cited in this policy.
The university, as a tax-exempt organization, is also subject to federal and state law concerning activities of a political nature. Tax-exempt organizations are limited in the ways they may influence legislation or intervene in political campaigns on behalf of candidates for public office. Faculty members wishing to participate in the political process should do so only in their individual capacities and avoid the appearance of speaking or acting on Rice University's behalf in political matters. (See Policy 807 "Partisan Political Activities"). Faculty members wishing to engage in lobbying may be limited by the Byrd amendment to the 1990 Department of Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which bars the use of federal funds to influence the awarding of specific federal grants, contracts, and loans. Faculty members should consult the Office of Public Affairs, President's Office, the Office of Sponsored Projects and Research Compliance, or the General Counsel for advice on these issues.