Ethics survey of Rice employees shows a culture that is not afraid to speak up

Survey also supports steps to foster greater awareness of hotline

A recent survey of Rice employees found that 98 percent of respondents were comfortable reporting ethical concerns to at least one resource on campus.

Picture of a finger dialing a phone

Rice’s EthicsPoint hotline, 866-294-4633, is available 24/7 for employees to anonymously report concerns about unethical conduct.

“The vast majority of people who responded to the survey said they would feel comfortable reporting a matter involving actual or suspected unethical conduct or a compliance issue to their department or division head,” said Ken Liddle, chief compliance officer, noting that 81 percent of faculty supervisors and 83 percent of staff supervisors gave that response; 76 percent of faculty and staff who are not supervisors gave that response also. Employees also indicated they would be willing to report a concern to other resources on campus. Only 2 percent said they would not talk to anyone about an issue.

The survey also showed that more than 80 percent of Rice faculty and staff respondents are aware of both the university’s Standards of Ethical Conduct and the Non-Retaliation Policy that offers protection for employees who report misconduct. But the survey also found that only 32 percent of faculty and 46 percent of staff know about the university’s toll-free hotline for anonymous reporting of unethical behavior.

Liddle and Janet Covington, director of internal audit, conducted the survey Jan. 11-26 to assess awareness of Rice’s Ethics and Compliance Program and the reporting resources available on campus. The voluntary survey was emailed to 4,393 employees; laptops were provided in convenient locations in the Housing and Dining and the Facilities, Engineering and Planning departments for employees whose jobs do not require access to computers so they could also take the survey.

Nearly 700 employees — 576 staff members and 123 faculty members — responded to the survey, which asked not just about awareness of the standards, policy and resources for reporting misconduct, but also whether the employee would feel comfortable seeking guidance on potential issues or reporting a problem. The survey results were presented to the Audit Committee of the Rice Board of Trustees.

The Standards of Ethical Conduct are a combination of established Rice policies, procedures and programs organized around the values of responsibility, integrity, community and excellence (RICE). All members of the Rice community are responsible for acting with high ethical standards and for being aware of and complying with policies, laws and regulations.

In addition to abiding by these high standards, Rice employees have a responsibility to speak up when they have a legal or ethical concern. The university’s Non-Retaliation Policy (Policy No. 813) prohibits any retaliatory action against a faculty member, staff member or student for reporting in good faith suspected or actual wrongful conduct.

Liddle and Covington said the survey showed that awareness of the Standards of Ethical Conduct increased the longer an employee worked at Rice. Of those responding, 90 percent of faculty members and 92 percent of staff members who have been at Rice over 10 years were aware of the standards; for employees who have worked at Rice for fewer than two years, awareness was 67 percent for faculty and 79 percent for staff.

Awareness of the Non-Retaliation Policy was not affected as significantly over time, as evidenced by 85 and 91 percent of faculty and staff members, respectively, who have worked at Rice for more than 10 years saying they knew about the policy, compared with 75 and 88 percent of faculty and staff members who have worked at Rice fewer than two years.

Awareness of the hotline for anonymous reporting of misconduct was expressed by 36 percent and 58 percent, respectively, of faculty and staff members who have worked at Rice for more than 10 years; only 17 percent of faculty and 40 percent of staff members who have been at Rice fewer than two years knew about the hotline.

“Awareness of the hotline was notably low, compared with the relatively high awareness for the standards and the Non-Retaliation Policy,” Covington said. “This suggests we may need to increase promotion of the hotline to all faculty and staff, regardless of their length of service.”

The hotline allows Rice employees to anonymously express concerns about financial misconduct, inappropriate employment practices or actions, research misconduct, sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct, workplace violence, unsafe work conditions, possible violations of law, accounting/auditing/internal control processes and many other issues. The hotline is also one of the many resources available to report (even anonymously) sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. The hotline vendor, EthicsPoint, has operators who can take reports in English or Spanish. Arrangements can be made to take reports in other languages also. The hotline number is 866-294-4633 and is available 24/7. EthicsPoint can also be contacted online at

At the start of each academic year, President David Leebron sends a message to the campus about Rice values. This includes encouragement to use the hotline as needed. This past January his message about the new state law regarding reporting sexual harassment also referenced the availability of the hotline.

Liddle and Covington said they plan to find other ways to increase awareness of the hotline as well as the Standards of Ethical Conduct and the Non-Retaliation Policy such as by providing printed materials to all new hires at orientation. Handouts will be available at the next Rice Fest on April 10. The Office of Internal Audit will continue to send an email to all employees annually, which will be followed up with a story in Rice News each year, and the Ethics and Compliance Program will complement these efforts with an annual email too.

“The important thing is that if you see something that’s wrong, you should say something — and if someone says something to you, you should either say something or do something to address the issue,” Liddle said. “If you’re not comfortable talking to your supervisor, you can talk to Human Resources, the Equal Employment Opportunity Office, the General Counsel’s Office or any of the other resources on campus, including me, and you can always call the hotline.”

Resources for Rice employees:

The Rice Code of Conduct

The EthicsPoint Hotline
1-866-294-4633 (toll-free) (This link will redirect to a secured EthicsPoint site.)

Non-Retaliation Policy (University Policy 813)

More resources:

Chief Compliance Officer Ken Liddle X2287
Director of Internal Audit Janet Covington X6312
University Controller Brad Fralic X4927
Information Security Marc Scarborough X5735
Athletics Compliance Bryan Blair X6919
Environmental Health & Safety Kathryn Cavender X8800
Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Russell Barnes X4350
General Counsel Richard Zansitis X5327
Human Resources Mary Cronin X4070
Risk Management Renee Block X4751
Research Compliance Krystal Toups X6200
Title IX Russell Barnes X4350
Rice University Police Department Staff on duty X6000


About B.J. Almond

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