Compliance Committee develops ethics standards

The Standards of Ethical Conduct that President David Leebron shared last week in an email to the Rice community originated from Rice’s new Ethics and Compliance Program.

Ken Liddle, director of compliance at Rice University

Ken Liddle

Ken Liddle, Rice’s first director of compliance, oversees the program that was established at Rice earlier this year. The program reviews policies and procedures, ensures accountability through training, corrects gaps in compliance and promotes a culture of ethical behavior across campus.

A key component of the program is the University Compliance Committee. Liddle chairs the committee, whose members include senior administrators and others with direct compliance responsibilities. Over the spring and summer the committee developed Rice’s Standards of Ethical Conduct, with guidance from the president, provost, Faculty Senate, vice presidents and vice provosts, deans, department chairs and the Audit Committee of the Rice Board of Trustees.

“Our goal in this document is to build on the RICE values – Responsibility, Integrity, Community, Excellence – and relate these values to our policies and business practices,” Leebron said in his email. He encouraged the community to read the standards and “learn more about the policies that allow Rice to meet the highest standards of ethical behavior as we carry out our mission of education, research and public service.”

Liddle, who was previously a compliance officer for the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT and a civilian legal adviser on ethics and fraud with the U.S. Air Force, noted that compliance is an essential component of being a top-tier research university, particularly when it comes to grants or contracts with the government. “Even seemingly simple errors can lead to lost grants, a loss of trust, penalties and increased oversight,” he said.

“Compliance programs should be a reflection of the university’s values and culture,” Liddle said. “These values are then reinforced with systems and procedures that allow the university to fulfill its academic mission with integrity.”

Higher education is a highly regulated industry, and all members of the Rice community have a responsibility to be aware of and comply with local, state and federal government requirements as well as Rice policies and other regulations that may impact Rice’s activities, accreditation and reputation, Liddle said.

He has created a website to provide a resource to the campus about compliance. It includes a matrix of 40 areas where Rice has compliance responsibilities. The matrix identifies the offices and individuals with responsibility so that the campus community knows the right person or office to contact for more information. “Clearly defined accountability is critical,” said Liddle, a graduate of Trinity University who has an MBA from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a law degree from Suffolk University.

The Ethics and Compliance Program will focus on ensuring that university policies and procedures are up-to-date and communicated effectively and that training resources are available. As new or expanded regulatory requirements take effect, Liddle will identify areas where Rice needs to establish new policies and procedures or strengthen current ones.

The compliance website also explains the options available for reporting suspected or actual wrongful conduct, including anonymous reporting and whistle-blower protection. “It doesn’t matter how you speak up; the important thing is that you do speak up,” Liddle said.

Liddle reports to the vice president for finance and the Board of Trustees Audit Committee. He welcomes questions at 713-348-2287 or He is scheduled to speak at the Oct. 13 Administrators Forum.

For more on the Ethics and Compliance Program, visit



About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.