Evolving Campus Part II: Improving Risk Management in Higher Ed

May 23, 2017


Today 's college campus is often compared to a small city, and this seems to be especially so in the context of risk management. Indeed—identifying, mitigating, and planning the appropriate response to the myriad risks faced by colleges and universities evoke some of the same areas of risk faced by civic leaders: food service, athletic events, underage drinking, medical and chemical research labs, communicable diseases, transportation, and gun violence or even terrorism.

Yet these risks in an academic setting involve an added dimension, and that is the relationship a university has with its students, donors, accreditation boards, and legislatures (if public.) A campus ' risk management policies, therefore, must account for the trust these stakeholders place in the institution, as well as the post-event risk to reputation, admissions, cash flow, and endowments.

As the practice of enterprise risk management has become more established at colleges and universities, administrators are recognizing the related value of incorporating meeting and room scheduling technology into their IT strategy. Today 's meeting and room scheduling software offers robust functionality and data reporting that can yield valuable information for any campus risk management strategy.

Improvements to Event Planning and Management
Many campuses are already using meeting and room scheduling software to shed light on facilities use, event management, and even student whereabouts, all of which are also key elements to a successful risk management program.

At Colorado State University (CSU) in Ft. Collins, the student body of 33,000 participates in campus events of all types, from football games to carnivals and even petting zoos and other animal-related programs associated with the school 's veterinary sciences center. All events are coordinated through the campus ' public health department, which is responsible for all aspects of planning. This includes traffic, parking, insurance, participant waivers, food policy, alcohol permissions, and even campus police.

Before proper event management procedures and comprehensive record-keeping were instituted at CSU, important details would go missing. Key staff members faced enormous volumes of paperwork and excessively long email threads that boosted the probability of planning errors.

"One Saturday morning, the Shriner Circus showed up and no one knew about it ahead of time! We were running over to campus at 6:30 am to get contracts signed right then and there. No one knew what was happening or who had arranged it. I still can 't believe that happened."
- Jeannine Rizzi, Colorado State University, Department of Public Health

The impact of such a surprise event are widespread, from traffic and parking to permitting and campus police. Fed up with a "complete lack of accountability " during the event planning process, Rizzi was determined to use the event management capabilities of EMS Software, which the university had been using for decades for its student union and classroom scheduling.

Today, the department has developed an EMS dashboard that ensures that all parties (including campus security) have been notified, that the necessary approvals for event details (e.g., events, animals) have been secured, and that the next step is known at each stage of the planning process. The university can invoice partners and vendors directly from the scheduling platform and has enabled the ability for hosts on campus to self-register their events via a customized web form.

The results of the shift have been dramatic for CSU. Per Rizzi, automated reports generated by the scheduling platform have not only saved time, but have served as a reliable history of all requests, approvals, and forms. This comprehensive reference "makes annual reporting a cinch. Now, an event can 't take place without running it through EMS first."

Having access to the detailed reporting, proper approvals, and automatic notifications has been key to securing the administration 's support for this new EMS platform, and to expanding campus connections to EMS. The Lory Student Center, Rec Center, and 40,000-seat football stadium are now on or migrating to EMS to further streamline the event management process throughout the university.

Improvements to Campus Security
The need for students to feel safe on their college campus is essential. Connecting room scheduling technology with campus security puts colleges and universities in a much better position to manage potential security issues. The University of Kentucky (UK) provides another example of how meeting and room scheduling software is used to improve campus security.

At UK, as with CSU, a centralized event management office is responsible for risk management and safety for the entire campus. Regardless of which department is reserving the space, the event management office enters all campus event requests into EMS, which links directly to the UK Police and UK Risk Management department. Once the Risk Management director receives the event request, he works within the scheduling platform to review the size, location, outside vendors, and participants. Once he assesses the overall event, he can mitigate risk in advance without canceling the event altogether.

Meeting and room scheduling software such as EMS helps universities avoid the tendency to silo their data, which can negatively impact a university 's ability to manage risk campus-wide. By integrating with student information systems (SIS) such as Ellucian, Jenzabar, and PeopleSoft, EMS provides a single platform where administrators have access to detailed information about class rosters and student or faculty schedules matched to campus facilities. Having access to this detailed level of data in emergency or lockdown situations is paramount.

Taking it one step further, academic institutions can set rules in the scheduling platform to restrict users from reserving or accessing rooms in certain facilities. Imagine, for instance, being able to restrict access to a biological research laboratory on campus during a high threat emergency. Or, imagine a tragic equipment malfunction during a theater production on campus, affecting the safety of stage crews, performers, or audience members.

Accountability on Campus is Now a Must-Have
In today 's higher ed climate, having accountability systems in place is not only critical, it 's expected by all stakeholders, from the administration to parents. Colleges and universities must plan for the foreseeable - and even to their best extent, the unforeseeable – risks. This can only occur with a single, campus-wide platform of record that brings together scheduling, planning, classroom, event, student, and facilities data.

Whether your university is developing an appropriate response plan or is actively responding to a risky situation, the information yielded by a platform such as EMS Software delivers a comprehensive – and actionable - portrait of what 's happening where on campus.

For more information about how your campus ' risk management strategy can benefit from meeting and room scheduling software, contact us today for a free needs assessment.