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Risk Management

The look of instructional technology is changing rapidly, as are the roles and strategies of the IT professional. Higher education technology’s legacy was characterized by six key areas: a strong sense of faculty ownership; hidden costs of free systems and networks; content and delivery mechanisms that were not well-differentiated; unstructured innovation; systems that would neither scale nor integrate; and service levels that were little more than “We’ll give it our best”--all with security being a mere afterthought.

Diana Pisciotta, president of the Denterlein public relations agency, has counseled college and university leaders through dozens of crisis events.

Administrators walk a fine line when confronting the right to be heard. Establishing protocols can help limit the risk associated with free-speech issues. 

READY FOR THE REAL WORLD—Students participate in a financial literacy course at Indiana University. The institution’s MoneySmarts U. program offers electives specifically for graduating seniors.

Some colleges and universities tailor their financial literacy courses to students in the immediate transition from campus to the bigger world.

Student loan debt—as well as delinquency and defaults—continue to be serious concerns among students, alumni, parents, higher ed institutions and their communities. The financial burdens on students can negatively impact both their success while enrolled and after graduation, as well as the enrollment, finances and public image of institutions as a whole.

Academia’s cyber preparedness (or lack thereof) has received less media attention than that of certain retailers and financial institutions, but nonetheless the cyber risks confronting universities are pervasive and alarming. Consider recent breaches suffered by educational institutions. At the University of Maryland, an outside source gained access to a secure records database that held information dating back to 1998, including names, social security numbers, dates of birth, and university identification numbers for over 300,000 people affiliated with the university on two campuses.

President Obama recently established a task force to protect students from sexual assault. According to a White House Memorandum of January 22, 2014, one in five female students is a survivor of attempted or actual sexual assault that occurred while in college. The unfortunate and heartbreaking situation with University of Missouri swimmer, Sasha Menu Courey, has recently placed the issue of on- and off-campus sexual assault in the spot light. In 2010, Ms. Courey was allegedly raped by one or more members of the University’s football team.

The September 11, 2001 attacks evoked a new era of national security and anxiety. The country responded with sweeping security measures that have sparked a growing concern over perceived violations of individual civil rights and liberties. This national debate surrounding the tension between national or organizational security and individual privacy can be especially complex when played out on one of the most widely recognized free speech forums: a university campus. Consider this hypothetical:

The tenure process remains instrumental to universities in maintaining academic freedom and in soliciting the country’s top minds to forgo employment in industry and seek employment in higher education. However, the system has evolved overtime, and so have the requirements for making and holding onto tenure. At the same time, the economic crisis of the last few years has opened a flood gate of highly qualified applicants seeking employment as faculty.

Most of us would agree that Safe Hiring and Safe Contracting programs are an important part of college operations. These issues may become more difficult, though, when they are associated with employee hiring or contractor selection processes and the accompanying consideration of various risks, particularly those related to previous criminal behaviors. It can be further complicated by the fact that access to students, faculty and secure facilities must also be considered in the evaluation.

The grand jury indictment of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on charges of child sex abuse, in November of 2011, ignited the most prominent university scandal in recent memory. Former federal judge and FBI Director Louis Freeh conducted a full-scale investigation of the incident after allegations surfaced of a university-wide cover up. Freeh’s final report laid much of the blame at the feet of the board of trustees, finding that the board had “failed to exercise its oversight and reasonable inquiry responsibilities.”

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