Risk Insider: Jack Hampton

Truth and Deception in Higher Education

By: | August 24, 2017 • 3 min read
John (Jack) Hampton is a Professor of Business at St. Peter’s University and a former Executive Director of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS). His recent book deals with risk management in higher education: "Culture, Intricacies, and Obsessions in Higher Education — Why Colleges and Universities are Struggling to Deliver the Goods." His website is www.jackhampton.com.

Colleges are struggling on every side. Private schools do not have enough new students. Public institutions have too many.

Students can’t get onto their preferred campuses. They can’t afford to pay the tuition wherever they finally matriculate.

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Professors take forever to get doctoral degrees. When they get them, they can’t find full-time positions. If they do, they do not get tenure.

Presidents raise money, comply with burdensome government regulations, resolve sex scandals, and respond to athlete misbehavior. Everybody criticizes them.

In the midst of these crises, many schools have lost sight of what is going on in the classroom.

All too often, students pick a school based on comments from parents or friends or a pleasant experience during an orientation visit to the campus on a sunny day. They make unfounded assumptions, recite opinions without reflection, and act based upon biases they do not even know they have. Emotions overcome logic.

Undergraduate programs are built upon topics such as English, biology, business, or education. All useful in many ways but are they preparing graduates for sorting out truth from fiction?

The campus itself presents a myriad of misleading challenges. Consider college recruiting slogans:

  • “We help students, just ask us.” How does this compare with subsequent services provided by the registrar, bursar, or housing office?
  • “On our campus, you are a name, not a number.” Discuss this recruiting slogan with 185 fellow students in the Ethics 101 lecture hall.
  • “We understand technology and that’s why we’ve put it at the core of your academic experience.” Think about this message as your professor writes lecture notes with chalk on a blackboard.
  • “We offer financial aid to help you afford your education.” Compare the $42,000 a year tuition with your $8,000 “scholarship,” an arrangement that will leave you with $84,000 in debt at graduation.

All too often, students pick a school based on comments from parents or friends or a pleasant experience during an orientation visit to the campus on a sunny day. They make unfounded assumptions, recite opinions without reflection, and act based upon biases they do not even know they have. Emotions overcome logic.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could come up with a single recommendation to help everyone? Perhaps, we can. How about a new freshman course taken as part of the college core along with humanities, science, and ethics? Picture the write-up in the college catalogue:

Deception Management 101 (3 credits) This course prepares students for a world where people are encouraged to believe things that are not true. Whether called beguilement, deceit, bluff, mystification, ruse, or subterfuge, deception is everywhere. In this course, students learn about propagating falsehoods, half-truths, denial of information, not to mention distraction, propaganda, sleight of hand, camouflage, concealment, and bad faith. The final assignment is a case study in self-deception.”

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The course starts with how students and parents choose a college. Some students are not ready for college, even as some colleges are not worth the price they charge or the level of debt they create. Students learn that people make bad decisions because they ignore facts and evidence. We decide based on our beliefs. To resist deception, we must change what we believe.

An entering college freshman believes many things. Black is the color of the box sought after the crash of an airplane. Wrong. It is orange. Christopher Columbus discovered America. Wrong. Six million “Americans” were already here in 1492. The Great Wall of China is the only man-made object on earth that is visible from the moon. Wrong. No man-made object is so visible.

These beliefs are no big deal. Failing to challenge other beliefs is far more serious. Every student should attend college. Students should incur crushing debt to finance a degree. Graduating from a university ensures a high salary. These all-too-common beliefs mask themselves as the “truth.”  In many cases, they are false.

Higher education, on its current path, is not solving all problems for a generation about to graduate. It, along with its accompanying student debt, is creating serious problems. That is the “truth” about higher education. It is also the deception.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 Risk All Stars

Immeasurable Value

The 2017 Risk All Stars strengthened their organizations by taking ownership of improved risk management processes and not quitting until they were in place.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 3 min read

Being the only person to hold a particular opinion or point of view within an organization cannot be easy. Do the following sound like familiar stories? Can you picture yourself or one of your risk management colleagues as the hero or heroine? Or better yet, as a Risk & Insurance® Risk All Star?

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One risk manager took a job with a company that was being spun off, and the risk management program, which was built for a much larger company, was not a good fit for the spun-off company.
Rather than sink into inertia, this risk manager took the bull by the horns and began an aggressive company intranet campaign to instill better safety and other risk management practices throughout the organization.

The risk manager, 2017 Risk All Star Michelle Bennett of Cable One, also changed some long-standing brokerage relationships that weren’t a good fit for the risk management and insurance program. In her first year on the job she produced premium savings and in her second year is in the process of introducing ERM company-wide.

Or perhaps this one rings a bell. The news is trickling out that a company is poised to dramatically expand, increasing the workforce three- or four-fold. Having this knowledge with certainty would be a great benefit to a risk manager, who could begin girding safety, workers’ comp and related programs accordingly. But things sometimes don’t work that way, do they? Sometimes the risk manager is one of the last people to know.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance.

In the case of 2017 Risk All Star winner Steve Richards of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, the news of an expansion spurred him to action. He completely overhauled the company’s workers’ compensation program and streamlined its claim management system. The results, even with a much higher headcount, were reduced legal costs, better return-to-work experiences for injured workers and a host of other improvements and savings.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance. Sometimes it took years for a particular risk solution, as promoted by a risk manager, to find acceptance.

In other cases a risk manager got so excited about a solution, they never even considered getting turned down. They just kept pushing until they carried the day.

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Butler University’s Zach Finn became obsessive about what he felt was a lackluster effort on the part of the insurance industry to bring in new talent. The former risk manager for the J.M. Smucker Co. settled on the creation of a student-run captive to give his risk management students the experience they would need to get hired right out of college.

The result was a better risk management program for the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and immediate traction in the job market for Finn’s students.

A few of our Risk All Stars told us that the results they are achieving were decades in the making. Only by year-in, year-out dedication to gaining transparency about her co-op’s risks and learning more and more about her various insurance carriers, did Growmark Inc.’s Faith Cring create a stalwart risk management and insurance program that is the envy of the agricultural sector. Now she’s been with some of her insurance carriers more than 20 years — some more than 30 years.

Having the right idea and not having a home for it can be a lonely, frustrating experience. Having the creativity, the passion and perhaps, most importantly, the perseverance to see it through and get great results makes you a Risk All Star. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.

See the complete list of 2017 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]