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October 17, 2011

President Leebron
State of the University 2011
Click here to read President Leebron's State of the University speech (.pdf)

Click here to view the State of the University slide presentation (.pdf)

Fall Town Hall 2011 and Rice Day
  Click here to view slides of the Fall Town Hall presentation (.pdf)  

Dear Rice Community,

Each fall in recent years I have sent a note to Rice faculty, staff and students to share some thoughts about our values.  I hope these letters have helped introduce new members of our community to the best in our Rice culture, and to reinforce the importance of those values for those of us who are already familiar with them.  Those values guide our decisions and behaviors and help define our sense of community.  The way we treat each other and our visitors is one of the strongest elements of our Rice identity. 

In my prior letters, I have focused on the importance of mutual respect, tolerance and civility in our diverse community.  At last year’s town hall, and in my matriculation remarks this year to our new students, I have begun to use a helpful mnemonic in recalling the values that are essential to our success as a healthy community.  The mnemonic device is, simply, our name (easy to remember!), RICE:  R for responsibility, I for integrity, C for community and E for excellence. 

Responsibility is something we embrace as individuals in a mission-driven academic community.  As I said in my remarks to our freshman class, we need to take responsibility for making Rice better.  We need to take responsibility for our own happiness and success.  And we need to take responsibility for our actions and words, and understand how they may impact our friends and colleagues.  We take responsibility for our actions and even -- or especially -- our mistakes.  Taking responsibility is the precursor to our own sense of empowerment, and the ability to make a contribution to our community, our city and our world. 

Integrity is one of the strongest threads in Rice’s fabric.  In the classroom, office, lab, field of play, in our residential colleges and in our community engagement, we are guided by our commitment to honesty and doing what is right.  These notions gird the sense of Rice’s honor and our Honor Code. We accept nothing less than complete academic and research integrity.  Not only our goals must reflect our values, but also the paths we choose to achieve them. 

Our sense of community embodies both our collective aspirations and our obligations toward each other.  Our success as a community depends first and foremost on our respect for each other, and how we reflect that respect in our everyday interactions with each other.  Those interactions must reflect recognition of the great diversity of our backgrounds and perspectives.  Our community is a group of people who care about each other and support each other – a culture of caring, our dean of undergraduates, John Hutchinson, likes to say.  In my matriculation speech, I asked the freshmen to join me in embracing a new abbreviation for texters and tweeters:  HCIH.  How can I help?  And as part of our values, we extend that sense of help and hospitality to all who come in contact with our community.

Finally, excellence.  For Rice, that means that as individuals and as a university, we are never satisfied with a good outcome or even doing our best, because we can always strive to find ways to do better and achieve even greater success.  When I arrived at Rice for the first time more than seven years ago, I was, like many, struck by the beauty of the campus and the quality of the education, research and community service it produced.  But I was surrounded by people – our trustees, alumni, faculty members, students, staff – who believed that Rice could be better.  Under the aegis of the Vision for the Second Century, we set out to do just that.  By any measure, we are an excellent university.  But we cannot really be excellent unless we constantly strive to become better.  

As we settle in to a new school year, let us continue to do what we can as individuals and a community to strengthen Rice's commitment to these values in the following ways:

  • Show respect for everyone on campus, regardless of position or office.  Think about how our words might be hurtful to someone else. Avoid careless actions that might endanger or make more work for others. 
  • Take care not to discriminate against any individual because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, age, disability or veteran status. 
  • As part of Rice’s commitment to affirmative action, help recruit and retain those who are underrepresented on our campus. 
  • Make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, and be ready to assist them. 
  • Avoid personal biases, preferences and preconceived stereotypes to promote a collegial work and study environment that offers opportunity for all.  Be inclusive and reach out to others from all the diverse elements of our community.  
  • Remain alert to, and help eliminate, bad behaviors in the classroom, residential colleges, graduate student residences and every other campus venue so that we all can participate and perform to our fullest potential. 
  • Respect the privacy and dignity of others in all circumstances. 

One more guiding principle that is central to most institutions of higher education is academic freedom. We invite robust debate on the issues of the day, and we welcome people with many points of view.  That means that we sometimes may disagree strongly with one another.  But our goal should be to gain a better understanding of those issues and the differences that can divide us, and to express those differences with civility and respect for other points of view.   

We are rapidly approaching Rice’s centennial year. Let us commit ourselves every day to the Rice spirit of responsibility, integrity, community and excellence that has created a wonderful environment of discovery and knowledge.  I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be part of this extraordinary university and to serve with you in pursuit of our highest aspirations.   



David W. Leebron


Rice's affirmative action policy and the Board of Trustees' resolutions supporting cultural inclusiveness are available at http://www.professor.rice.edu/professor/policies.asp.  If you feel you have been treated in a manner contrary to these policies, contact Russell Barnes, director of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity programs, at rcb@rice.edu.