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Frequently Asked Questions

Updated January 20, 2019



  • The Honor System at Rice
  • For Students
  • For Professors
  • For Accused Students
  • For Accusing Professors


The Honor System at Rice

Why does Rice have an Honor Code?

The purpose of the Honor Code, as stated in the Honor System Constitution is to “allow maximum freedom for students, undergraduate and graduate, in the completion of all academic work, and to ensure the integrity of that work.” The Honor Code protects the rights of students at Rice to complete their academic work to the best of their abilities, and to be rewarded for that work. These policies ensure that every student at Rice is held to the same high standard of integrity, and that every student’s original ideas are protected.

What is the Purpose of the Honor System Pledge?

“On my honor, I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this (assignment, exam, paper, etc.).”

Students at Rice will write this pledge countless times throughout their academic career. The pledge, requested at the top of many assignments, serves as a reminder that the work one submits is pledged under the Honor System, and that all students are expected to put forth only work that is reflective of their original ideas and personal knowledge.

Does the Honor Code only cover questions of academic integrity, or does it apply to disciplinary issues as well?

The Honor Code only covers questions of academic integrity. Disciplinary issues are addressed by Student Judicial Programs and University Court through the Code of Student Conduct, which is separate from the Honor Code. For more information, please visit their website at sjp.rice.edu.

Who are the members of the Honor Council?

The Honor Council is comprised entirely of students. Each college elects a representative to the Council, and each class elects additional representatives. In addition to class and college representatives, “at-large” student representative positions are also available at the undergraduate level. Finally, new-student representatives are also selected at the beginning of each school year.

How do I become an Honor Council member?

The first step to becoming an Honor Council representative is to familiarize yourself with the Honor System, and the role of the Honor Council at Rice. To do this, you should start by reviewing the governing documents at honor.rice.edu. If you are a new student, you can apply to be a new student representative in the Fall. Your college Honor Council Representative will send out a listserv notification. If you are a returning student, you can run to become a class, college, or at-large representative in the Spring. Notification emails will be sent out when election season comes around. If you are interested in becoming a part of the Rice Honor Council, send us an email at honor@rice.edu!

How do I become an Ombuds?

The first step to becoming an Ombuds is to familiarize yourself with the Honor System, and the role of the Honor Council at Rice. To do this, you should start by reviewing the governing documents at honor.rice.edu. If you are a new student, you can apply to be a new student representative in the Fall. If you are interested in becoming a part of the Rice Honor Council, send us an email at honor@rice.edu!


For Students

What are some behaviors that fall short of the expectations of the Rice Honor System?

The four main categories of Honor Code violations are plagiarism, false citation, false data, and multiple submission. Any incident falling into one of these four categories will constitute an Honor Code violation. In addition to academic dishonesty, any violation of an instructor’s specific course Honor Code policy will also constitute a violation. For this reason, it is paramount to read and understand the Honor Code policy for every course that you take. You may also be accused of an Honor Code violation for being aware of a violation that has occurred and failing to report it to the Honor Council.

I am a student. Who do I contact if I have questions about the Honor Council, Honor Code, or academic integrity policies?

For questions regarding the Honor Code, please contact us at honor@rice.edu, or your college Honor Council representative. For a list of college representatives and their contact information, click here.

Who can I ask to ensure I am not committing a violation?

It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that they are not committing an Honor Code violation. Contact your professor if any part of the course’s Honor Code policy is unclear.

I am a student. What do I do if I suspect someone has violated the Honor Code?

As a student of Rice University, you are required to report any possible violation of the Honor Code. If you have any questions about this obligation, please contact us at honor@rice.edu.


For Professors

Is there sample language for a statement about academic integrity for syllabi?

This page features various components of course Honor Codes that the Council has written to be used and adapted for syllabi in Rice undergraduate coursework. Not all components have to be in all Honor Codes, and it’s good to add extra sections as required. If you would like to adapt language from this model, please feel free to do so. Additionally, if you are adding a new section to your syllabus and would like advice on how to structure it, please contact honor@rice.edu with your request for assistance, and we’ll be happy to help!

I am a professor and I have more questions about integrating the Honor Code in my course. Whom should I contact?

For questions regarding the Honor Code, please contact us at honor@rice.edu. This email address reaches the student officers of the Honor Council, our faculty advisor Dr. Rudy Guerra, as well as members of the administration.


For Accused Students

What happens if you are accused?

If you have been accused of an Honor Code violation, you will be notified via email by the presiding Chair for your case. You will be assigned an Ombuds that will assist you for the duration of your case. The first step of the process is the Investigative Meeting. This meeting is mandatory and can only be rescheduled if it conflicts with a University-sponsored event you are required to attend. Additionally, you will have a judicial hold on your ESTHER account while your case is pending, and until any potential appeals are resolved. This judicial hold will prevent you from accessing your transcript. It is important to note that an accused student is barred from contacting the professor of the class about an Honor Code accusation.

What is an Ombuds?

An ombuds is a student representative assigned to each accused student. The ombuds acts as a procedural guide to students throughout the course of their Honor Council case. Ombuds are there to answer any questions you, as the accused student, may have. In addition, your ombuds is present at every deliberation, testimony, and sanction deliberation to ensure that the Honor Council is following all its procedures. An ombuds is not an advocate for the student, but can help in accessing resources and answering procedural questions.

If accused, can I talk to my professor or accuser about the case?

The Honor Code prohibits students from discussing an ongoing Honor Code case with the professor of the course or with an accuser. If an accused student has a question about their case, they may contact their Ombuds.

What should I do if I violated the Honor Code?

If you have committed a violation of the Honor Code you are obligated to submit a self-accusation letter. In the event that a student submits a self-accusation that is deemed unprompted and in good faith, the Council may not, by its own rules, consider suspension as a sanction for an Honor Code violation.

What happens in an Honor Code investigation?

There are two steps in an Honor Code investigation: the Investigative Meeting and the Hearing.

The purpose of the Investigative Meeting is to provide detailed information regarding the accusation (including the letter of accusation) to the accused student, to let the accused student know what options are available to them under the Honor System, and to decide what the next step in the investigation will be. At the Investigative Meeting, the accused student will be asked to write a written statement, which will be entered into evidence should the case proceed to a Hearing. The possible next steps following an Investigative Meeting are to drop the case, have a second Investigative Meeting, or to proceed to a Hearing. If the Council decides to move to a Hearing, the Council and the accused student will have the opportunity to request the collection of additional evidence.

At the Hearing, a panel of six Honor Council members will hear the accused student’s testimony, review evidence, and ask any questions they have. Following the Hearing, the Council will decide whether a preponderance of the evidence shows that an Honor Code violation has occurred. If the accused student is found ‘In Violation’, the Council will then determine what is the appropriate sanction for the Honor Code violation.

What are the sanctions for an Honor Code violation?

The sanctions for an Honor Code violation can be found on the Consensus Penalty Structure.

What are mitigating and aggravating factors?

Mitigating and aggravating factors are considered by the Council when a student is found ‘In Violation’ in the sanction deliberation phase of the Hearing. To view the list of mitigating and aggravating factors, click here to view the Council’s Consensus Penalty Structure.

If found In Violation, does a record of academic misconduct end up on my transcript?

While most Honor Code violations will not be noted on a student’s academic transcript, they will be maintained in SJP disciplinary records. Any grade changes will be reflected in the student’s academic record, but will not be highlighted as a penalty. Expulsions are noted on the official Rice transcript, but other Honor Code violations are not. If you apply to graduate or professional school after Rice, those schools will likely ask if you were “found responsible” (or similar language) for an academic integrity offense during your time at Rice. If you are asked that question on an application, and you were found In Violation by the Honor Council (and on appeal, if applicable), you are obligated to answer “yes.”

What if I didn’t realize I was committing academic misconduct?

The Rice Honor System was originally created by the student body, for the student body in 1912, making it one of Rice’s oldest institutions. To quote President Leebron, the Honor System, “is one of Rice’s most highly valued traditions and a vital part of your education — education in responsibility and integrity.” All Rice students are expected to take an active role in upholding this tradition of integrity in all that they do, both in undergraduate coursework as well as in the larger community.

With that in mind, before registration each semester, students are required to affirm the Honor System Matriculation Pledge, which reads as follows:

“I signify that I have read the Constitution of the Honor System and hereby pledge my support to it. I understand what is expected of me as a student of Rice University, that my obligation to satisfy the requirements of the Honor System extends from my matriculation to my graduation and that a plea of ignorance will not be accepted by the Honor Council.”

Under the Honor Code, it is the student’s responsibility to ask a professor for clarification whenever a course Honor Code policy is unclear. As a result, ignorance of the course Honor Code policy specifically cannot be considered in Honor Code investigations.

Will my parents/guardians find out about an Honor Code accusation against me or an Honor Code violation?

Honor Council proceedings are kept confidential. Councilmembers are not permitted to identify involved parties, and Rice does not notify students’ families about Honor Council proceedings. All Honor Council documents are part of a student’s educational record, and are therefore protected by federal privacy laws.

Can I appeal my Honor Code violation decision?

There are two levels of appeal available to students following a decision of “In Violation”: the first is to the Faculty Appeals panel, and the second is to the President of Rice University. An appeal can only be made on the following grounds: demonstration of significant procedural unfairness that influenced the outcome of the case, excessive or unjust penalty, incorrect decision, or defective deliberation.


For Accusing Professors

What do I do if I suspect a violation of the Honor Code?

If you suspect an undergraduate student of a violation of the Honor Code, document any evidence that you can and send a letter of accusation to honor@rice.edu. For suspected violations involving graduate students, these accusations are handled by the Graduate Honor Council. They can be contacted at gradhonor@rice.edu, and more information can be found at gradhonor.rice.edu.

What information should I include in my letter of accusation?

The ideal letter of accusation is succinct, and contains a summary of the accusation as well as all relevant identifying information for the accused student. All evidence can be attached to the letter of accusation, and the Council appreciates any evidence you feel would be useful in reaching a decision. The initial letter does not have to be fully detailed or contain all of the evidence relevant to the case; this can be sent later in the process. Below is an example of a letter of accusation:

Dear Honor Council,

I suspect an Honor Code violation has occurred in my SCIE 100: Introduction to Science course. The potential violation involves a final paper in the class, submitted by Student A. (S12345678, netID: as999). The paper in question is attached. Additionally, I have attached three online articles which have large amounts of text that share similarities with the student’s paper and are not cited by the student. The course syllabus (also attached) specifically states, “The uncited use of another’s work on any assignment in the course is a form of plagiarism. Any form of plagiarism is a violation of the Rice Honor Code, and will be reported to the Rice Honor Council.” I will not discuss this accusation with the student. Please let me know if any other evidence is needed to proceed with the case.


Dr. P

What happens after I submit an accusation?

You should expect a response from a member of the Honor Council within 24 – 48 hours of submitting an accusation. However, when accusations are submitted at times outside the academic year, it may take longer for you to hear a response. From here, the Council will inform the student of the accusation, and set up an Investigative Meeting. At every step of the process, the presiding Chair for your case will email you to let you know of any updates in the case. At the conclusion of the case, the presiding Chair will inform you of the Council’s decision in the case, and explain the Council’s reasoning that led to this conclusion.

How quickly can I expect a case to be heard?

We are fortunate enough here at Rice to have a student-run Honor System. However, a necessary consequence of this fact is that all scheduled meetings will take place according to students’ schedules. Because of this, delays are common towards the end of the semester, as well as during winter and summer recesses. In general, though, a case will be resolved within two months.