WHEN IT COMES TO HOST CITIES, FEW would argue that Chicago was an inspired choice for the 2008 NACUBO national conference in July. With more than 20 colleges and universities located in the Chicago area?not to mention the distinctive cuisine and the city’s jazz and blues heritage?the city was the ideal location for this year’s gathering of business officers and senior administrators.
A year after scandals in the financial aid community served as a wake up call to how business is conducted in higher education, this year’s NACUBO seemed to have a more positive tone?a “changing perspective,” as the conference tag line said?reflected in record attendance figures, according to the association.
While ethics and transparency continue to be important issues, attendees got an update on technology trends, community relations, and sustainability.
The annual conference usually includes one or two major announcements, and this year was no different. The conference began with news of the release of a NACUBO-published summary report called Assessing the Impact of the Spellings Commission: The Message, the Messenger, and the Dynamics of Change in Higher Education. The report is a comprehensive review of research and testimony presented during the Commission’s work, as well as a review of how that work was perceived by the education community and the media. The summary doesn’t claim to offer answers, but is intended to serve a broader purpose: What ultimately happens with the Spellings Commission’s recommendations may rest with who occupies the White House next year, and the NACUBO report can provide valuable guidance for any outcome.
NACUBO was big on educational sessions for attendees and had many standing room only sessions for a broad range of topics.
Building on the interest in sustainability issues from prior NACUBO events, this year’s Presidential Perspectives session offered “Successful Strategies to Grow a Culture of Sustainability.” Mary Spilde, president of Lane Community College (Ore.), Diana Van Der Ploeg, president of Butte College (Calif.), and Kathleen Schatzberg, president of Cape Cod Community College (Mass.), discussed the unique role that community colleges play in the sustainability movement. Drawing examples from their own institutions, each leader talked about assessing market trends, identifying job opportunities, and creating academic and workforce training programs to meet the needs of the new green economy. They also shared tips on collaborating with other institutions and measuring the effectiveness of sustainability programs.
Ethical philosophies from Aristotle and Immanuel Kant were called into service in a session called “Wink-Wink, Nudge-Nudge, Ethical Conflicts in University Business Practice,” which was led by Clancy Martin and Wayne Vaught, who both teach courses in ethics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and appear monthly on a local NPR show as the “Ethics Professors.” Attendees were asked to consider several ethical conundrums at the fictitious Midwestern University. They discussed moral reasoning, issues of transparency, and conflict of interest in a scenario about a general contractor who got business based on his friendship with administrators.
Town/gown relations were the focus of a session called “Dealing with Difficult Issues in Real Estate Development.” Craig Bazani, vice president of institutional advancement at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, discussed the institution’s transition from a commuter school to more of a residential university. By enhancing and emphasizing a college town atmosphere the school could attract financing and real estate developers to create modern amenities that appeal to students, faculty and the community?and improve student retention.
In a session called “Identity Theft and the Electronic Workplace,” Robert Duston, an attorney with the Saul Ewing law firm in Washington, D.C., painted a gloomy picture of information theft. With the volume of personal information passing through various campus departments daily, “it’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when’” a data breach will occur, Duston said. Educational institutions are one of the major sources of data breaches, along with financial institutions, retailers, and hospitals. Duston referenced a 2005 EDUCAUSE survey that revealed 26 percent of institutions surveyed had experienced a data breach involving personal information. Susan Chichester, CIO at SUNY College at Geneseo, offered strategies for safeguarding information?both electronic and paper based?and, more important, getting support and cooperation from departments outside IT’s realm of influence.