Higher Education

University Risk Managers Share Concerns

Higher education risk managers are focusing on ERM, as well as cyber security and compliance risks.
By: | December 10, 2014 • 5 min read
University

Higher education risk managers converged on Louisville, Ky., this fall for the annual conference of the University Risk Management and Insurance Association, where several themes emerged as key areas of focus.

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“ERM seemed to be the biggest theme, but there was a enough variety in the sessions to cover all the basics,” said Mark Logel, director, administrative services & risk management at the University of Evansville and a first-time conference attendee.

ERM Implementation

More than six in 10 (61 percent) survey respondents said they have not conducted an enterprise risk management process at their institution in the past two years, or don’t know if such work was done, according to data shown during one session, “Managing Risk Intelligently: A New Normal.”

And yet, nearly three-fourths (73 percent) said they are more focused on institutional risk now than five years ago, and 63 percent reported having more full board discussions about institutional risk.

Paradoxically, only 39 percent of respondents said they were getting enough information about their exposures, down from 43 percent in 2008.

However, according to Gary Langsdale, university risk officer at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and a session speaker, these statistics are not as negative as they appear. Such conflicting opinions may demonstrate that institutions are growing more aware of the complex web of risks they face and therefore asking for more information, not necessarily receiving less.

“There’s an impetus for thinking more holistically about risk,” said Andre LeDuc, executive director, enterprise risk services at the University of Oregon. “It’s a continual struggle to promote a risk-aware culture.”

Such a culture needs to be built from the top down, with buy-in from board members and more communication between academic and student affairs offices. The publicity surrounding the Sandusky scandal at PSU revealed a need for greater board involvement, Langsdale said.

But, he noted, there is a limit.

“Board members should have their noses in but fingers out,” he said, meaning the board’s role is to be informed but not overly involved in risk management.

Langsdale identified ways risk managers can help set the culture for a true ERM effort:

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• Look for leadership opportunities.

• Break down organizational silos.

• Understand the analytical tools and methodologies available.

• Elicit views from across the organization.

“Establishing ERM is an evolution,” LeDuc said. “Check back in two or three years to see what works and what doesn’t. Every institution is unique. … We have to take lessons learned back to our home institutions and help the thematic thread spread.”

Strategic Risk

Changing demographics and enrollment challenges, lack of funding and regulatory compliance are three major strategic risks faced by universities.

According to Christine Eick, executive director, risk management and safety at Auburn University, some schools saw hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of cuts in government funding during the recession.

That is compounded, Langsdale said, by a lack of funding on students’ end as well. As costs rise, fewer students and their families are able to contribute much from their own pockets.

“We have to make choices about which programs to support,” he said.

Many attendees acknowledged that funding for sports programs, while ultimately accounting for a very small percentage of a school’s overall budget, should be the first to take cuts because of their high visibility.

Enrollment has also fallen as demographics shift. There are simply fewer 18-year-olds in the prospective student pool now than there were a decade or more ago, which increases competition among schools vying to keep classrooms full.

“One help has been recruiting returning military members,” Eick said, “who often come with the support of government funding” and have incentives to obtain a degree as they re-enter the mainstream workforce.

Compliance has also risen as a priority, especially with adherence to Title IX and the handling of sexual assault cases coming under tighter scrutiny.

Along with the increased risk, however, comes the benefit of putting “risk managers at the right tables,” said LeDuc, as universities need to discuss such risks among different offices and with board members.

Cyber Security

Like any other organization that collects personally identifiable information, higher education institutions are more concerned with cyber threats.

“Data, data, data. Are we fully aware of our exposures?” LeDuc asked, picking out cyber security as a risk to watch related to students’ personal and financial records, as well as the potential for theft of intellectual property, especially at research institutions.

“Cyber is an increasing threat,” Eick agreed. “There has to be a shift in culture that mandates security training for all faculty to be completed by a certain date. Schools should be employing more privacy officers and CIOs to handle those challenges.”

Universities may have a higher exposure for data breach, Langsdale said, because networks are “designed to be open” to allow access for prospective and current students, alumni, faculty, and researchers from other facilities.

“You need to be on top of your cloud providers and know where your servers are located,” he said. “There should be no deemed export of information.”

Study Abroad

Along with the increase in study abroad programs comes the increased need for colleges and universities to do more to ensure the safety of students in such programs, including keeping track of their whereabouts and the conditions of the countries they visit.

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Until recently, schools have had limited ways to track and communicate with students abroad, and have kept limited records of incidents. Both nonprofit organizations and businesses offer resources to help risk managers expand their efforts.

One way to conduct due diligence is through site visits, which “are not terribly expensive,” according to Eick, but which usually are only done by larger, better-funded schools.

In addition to scoping out the conditions of hosting school and the surrounding communities, site visits allow risk managers an opportunity to analyze local coverage and ensure that the right policies are in place. Language barriers can result in improper coverage.

Katie Siegel is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at ksiegel@lrp.com.
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Risk Insider: Paula Vene Smith

Risks That Hide Behind Reputation and Compliance

By: | November 3, 2014 • 2 min read
Paula Vene Smith directs the Purposeful Risk Engagement Project (PREP) and is a professor at Grinnell College. She writes and consults on risk in higher education, especially at liberal arts colleges. She can be reached at smithp@grinnell.edu.

After agreeing that an emerging risk calls for action, the next step in risk management is to select the best way to treat the risk. Fears about compliance or reputation loom large, and these risks may be given priority in a climate of rapid disclosure fueled by social media and round-the-clock news.

But beware of overlooking the basic question: “What’s at risk?” Have you clarified what vital process, asset, or outcome is threatened?  Sometimes a group of leaders may not all arrive at the same answer.

Take the recently reported case of academic fraud at the University of North Carolina, where students apparently were advised to sign up for phony “paper courses” that involved no real academic work, yet provided them with grades and credit to preserve their eligibility for athletic participation.

But framing the problem in terms of reputation can neglect more direct issues, like the safety of minor children, or corruption of data relied upon for key decisions.

As this story broke, early news accounts framed the risk in terms of NCAA compliance.  But not long afterward, opinion pieces and articles began pointing out that such fraud can strike at the institution’s academic integrity.

The worth of a diploma is potentially undermined by many years of granting degree credit in the absence of genuine learning effort or academic achievement.

Similarly, when an employee is found to have engaged in unethical or abusive behavior, campus administrators may think first of institutional reputation. Discussion will focus on avoiding litigation, or how to communicate the news in a way that will not cast the school in a negative light.

But framing the problem in terms of reputation can neglect more direct issues, like the safety of minor children, or corruption of data relied upon for key decisions.

In extreme cases, excessive concern for reputation can compound risk by tempting executive leaders to dismiss warning signs, decide not to investigate or report the wrongdoing, or even to engage in cover-up when the situation threatens to become public.

While compliance and reputation are key considerations in choosing how to manage an emerging risk, these issues can mask an underlying risk that is more basic.

Are academic institutions pursuing Title IX compliance primarily to satisfy government officials and look good to prospective students and their families?  Or is the goal an ideal learning environment unclouded by the physical and emotional pain of sexual assault, discrimination, and harassment?

The answer to this question is not just rhetorical.

As recently reported in The Washington Post, a number of well-meaning colleges have found that when they step up efforts to encourage reports under Title IX, the relevant statistics can be expected to rise.

While the increase in reporting allows for appropriate follow-up by the institution, it also creates the need to explain to a startled public that a higher number of assault and harassment reports does not necessarily indicate a more dangerous campus.

If the lower statistics from earlier years were due to under-reporting, what benefited was the institution’s reputation rather than the safety of its students.

What risks hide behind the protection of reputation and compliance?  Let’s be clear on what we most want to achieve when we choose how to mitigate a risk.

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Sponsored: Liberty International Underwriters

From Coast to Coast

Planning the Left Coast Lifter's complex voyage demands a specialized team of professionals.
By: | January 7, 2015 • 5 min read

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The 3,920-ton Left Coast Lifter, originally built by Fluor Construction to help build the new Bay Bridge in San Francisco, will be integral in rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge by 2018.

The Lifter and the Statue of Liberty

When he got the news, Scot Burford could see it as clearly as if somebody handed him an 8 by 11 color photograph.

On January 30,  the Left Coast Lifter, a massive crane originally built by Fluor Construction to help build the new Bay Bridge in San Francisco, steamed past the Statue of Liberty. Excited observers, who saw the crane entering New York Harbor, dubbed it the “The Hudson River Hoister,” honoring its new role in rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River.

Powered by two stout-hearted tug boats, the Lauren Foss and the Iver Foss, it took more than five weeks for the huge crane to complete the 6,000 mile ocean journey from San Francisco to New York via the Panama Canal.

Scot took a deep breath and reflected on all the work needed to plan every aspect of the crane’s complicated journey.

A risk engineer at Liberty International Underwriters (LIU), Burford worked with a specialized team of marine insurance and risk management professionals which included John Phillips, LIU’s Hull Product Line Leader, Sean Dollahon, an LIU Marine underwriter, and Rick Falcinelli, LIU’s Marine Risk Engineering Manager, to complete a detailed analysis of the crane’s proposed route. Based on a multitude of factors, the LIU team confirmed the safety of the route, produced clear guidelines for the tug captains that included weather restrictions, predetermined ports of refuge in the case of bad weather as well as specifying the ballast conditions and rigging of tow gear on the tugs.

Of equal importance, the deep expertise and extensive experience of the LIU team ensured that the most knowledgeable local surveyors and tugboat captains with the best safety records were selected for the project. After all, the most careful of plans will only be as effective as the people who execute them.

The tremendous size of the Left Coast Lifter presented some unique challenges in preparing for its voyage.

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The original intention was to dry tow the crane by loading and securing it on a semi-submersible vessel. However, the lack of an American-flagged vessel that could accommodate the Left Coast Lifter created many logistical complexities and it was decided that the crane would be towed on its own barge.

At first, the LIU team was concerned since the barge was not intended for ocean travel and therefore lacked towing skegs and other structural components typically found on oceangoing barges.

But a detailed review of the plan with the client and contractors gave the LIU team confidence. In this instance, the sheer weight and size of the crane provided sufficient stability, and with the addition of a second tug on the barge’s stern, the LIU team, with its knowledge of barges and tugs, was confident the configuration was seaworthy and the barge would travel in a straight line. The team approved the plan and the crane began its successful voyage.

As impressive as the crane and its voyage were, it was just one piece in hundreds that needed to be underwritten and put in place for the Tappan Zee Bridge project to come off.

Time-Sensitive Quote

SponsoredContent_LIUThe rebuilding of the Tappan Zee Bridge, due to be completed in 2018, is the largest bridge construction project in the modern history of New York. The bridge is 3.1 miles long and will cost more than $3 billion to construct. The twin-span, cable-stayed bridge will be anchored to four mid-river towers.

When veteran contractors American Bridge, Fluor Corp., Granite Construction Northeast and Traylor Bros. formed a joint venture and won the contract to rebuild the Tappan Zee, one of the first things the consortium needed to do was find an insurance partner with the right coverages and technical expertise.

The Marsh broker, Ali Rizvi, Senior Vice President, working with the consortium, was well known to the LIU underwriting and engineering teams. In addition, Burford and the broker had worked on many projects in the past and had a strong relationship. These existing relationships were vital in facilitating efficient communication and data gathering, particularly given the scope and complexity of a project like the Tappan Zee.

And the scope of the project was indeed immense – more than 200 vessels, coming from all over the United States, would be moving construction equipment up the Hudson River.

An integrated team of LIU underwriters and risk engineers (including Burford, Phillips, Dollahon and Falcinelli) got to work evaluating the risk and the proper controls that the project required. Given the global scope of the project, the team’s ability to tap into their tight-knit global network of fellow LIU marine underwriters and engineers with deep industry relationships and expertise was invaluable.

In addition to the large number of vessels, the underwriting process was further complicated by many aspects of the project still being finalized.

“Because the consortium had just won this account, they were still working on contracts and contractors to finalize the deal and were unsure as to where most of the equipment and materials would be coming from,” Burford said.

Despite the massive size of the project and large number of stakeholders, LIU quickly turned around a quote involving three lines of marine coverage, Marine Liability, Project Cargo and Marine Hull & Machinery.

How could LIU produce such a complicated quote in a short period of time? It comes down to integrating risk engineers into the underwriting process, possessing deep industry experience on a global scale and having strong relationships that facilitate communication and trust.

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Photo Credit: New York State Thruway Authority

When completed in 2018, the Tappan Zee will be eight lanes, with four emergency pullover lanes. Commuters sailing across it in their sedans and SUVs might appreciate the view of the Hudson, but they might never grasp the complexity of insuring three marine lines, covering the movements of hundreds of marine vessels carrying very expensive cargo.

Not to mention ferrying a 3,920-ton crane from coast to coast without a hitch.

But that’s what insurance does, in its quiet profundity.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty International Underwriters. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




LIU is part of the Global Specialty Division of Liberty Mutual Insurance.
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