Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Sunday, April 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

RUPD investigates three separate incidents of assault across campus

Guillian Paguilla / Thresher

By Kenzie Langhorne     3/26/24 11:38pm

A male suspect followed a student into Will Rice College Feb. 21 and entered a student’s unlocked room while she was sleeping, according to Clemente Rodriguez, Rice University Police Department chief of police. When she woke up, she found him touching her leg. The student reported the incident to RUPD.

“We investigated and were able to identify the suspect,” Rodriguez said. “The investigation was presented to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, and [the suspect] accepted criminal charges for burglary with the intent to commit assault, a second-degree felony.”

In recent weeks, RUPD has been investigating numerous incidents of alleged assault and unwanted touching that have occurred at Will Rice, along the outer loop and at Brown College.

According to a Rice alert sent Feb. 25, several claims of unwanted touching were made to RUPD on Feb. 24. An unidentified male cyclist circled the outer loop, inappropriately grabbing female joggers before riding away. A similar occurrence with the same suspect happened near the engineering quad. 

“RUPD officers and investigators conducted a thorough investigation and were able to identify a possible suspect,” Rodriguez said. “A security specialist while on duty spotted an individual matching the suspect description. Officers responded and detained the suspect, who was arrested after he admitted to being the individual involved in the assaults in and around the perimeter of campus.”

According to Rodriguez, on Mar. 16, another incident happened at Brown College. A non-Rice affiliated male inappropriately touched a female student in a stairway. The student was able to get away and call RUPD. The suspect was found inside Brown by RUPD officers, arrested, and charged with indecent assault, a Class A misdemeanor.

According to Rodriguez, RUPD officers and security experts patrol daily and interact with the campus and residential colleges 24 hours a day in an effort to discourage crime. Rodriguez said RUPD implements security measures such as access-control readers, security cameras and license plate recognition software at all residential colleges.

“RUPD strives to ensure we have the safest campus possible,” Rodriguez said. “We also rely on our campus community to support safety by reporting crimes quickly when they occur as well as any suspicious activity on campus. In many cases, the community has been instrumental in helping RUPD with crime deterrence and investigations.”

Brown College president Sara Davidson said she hopes RUPD can reassure the student body of campus’ safety and develop solutions to the repeated incidents.

“I have personally never had an incident where I have felt unsafe on campus,” Davidson said. “But obviously, with everything happening recently, I have felt less safe on campus now than perhaps before. I know that they are working hard, and I am relieved to know that they have been able to close many of the recent cases with reports going to [the Houston Police Department].”

Brown Chief Justice Abel Limachi said that earlier this year, a new gate was added to the entrance of Brown’s dormitories that requires a Rice ID to open, but the alleged indecent assault has shown that the new gate is not enough.

“I talked to my magister today, and one of the things we realized was realistically anyone could walk into Brown coming off of the metro through the main entrance,” Limachi, a junior, said. “Entrance one is just an open gate with an open row that anyone can realistically walk through. Most of the time there is a RUPD officer keeping an eye on things but they’re not there 24/7 … I have reached out to RUPD with some concerns.” 

Limachi said Brown magisters and residential associates sent out an email to the Brown listserv encouraging students to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings whenever they are entering the tower, commons or the quad. 

Will Rice Chief Justice Ayaan Riaz said some members of Will Rice’s outgoing and incoming leadership wrote a brief message to the members of their college addressing the incident.

“It’s disheartening to hear of so many cases of intrusions and assaults back to back,” Riaz, a sophomore, said. “Especially considering the one [at] my own college … We believe everyone deserves to feel safe during their time at Rice.”

Riaz said every person in the Rice community has a responsibility to ensure everyone’s safety. According to Riaz, chief justices often emphasize this in relation to alcohol, but it remains relevant for campus safety. 

“We have to look out for each other in our spaces, and that does include being more careful about locking our doors and being vigilant regarding strangers on college grounds,” Riaz said. “I think that these intrusions have served as a wake-up call to all of us that our bubble is not impenetrable, as unfortunate as that may be. I do sincerely hope that if another incident occurs students will be quick to reach out to the necessary support, be that their CJ, somebody on their core team or RUPD.”

Editor’s Note: Ayaan Riaz is the Thresher’s Wéb Editor.

More from The Rice Thresher

NEWS 4/17/24 5:23pm
Jones wins men’s and women’s Beer Bike races, GSA snags alumni

Jones College won both the women’s and men’s Beer Bike 2024 races, while the Graduate Student Association claimed the alumni team win. Hanszen College bike teams were the runner-up in the alumni and men’s races, while Brown College was the runner-up in the women’s race. Martel and McMurtry Colleges did not bike in the alumni race, according to the Rice Program Council’s final report, and the GSA was disqualified from the men’s race for accidentally sending out two bikers simultaneously.


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.