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

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Emerging Multipliers

It’s not that these risks are new; it’s that they’re coming at you at a volume and rate you never imagined before.
By: | April 9, 2018 • 3 min read

Underwriters have plenty to worry about, but there is one word that perhaps rattles them more than any other word. That word is aggregation.

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Aggregation, in the transferred or covered risk usage, represents the multiplying potential of a risk. For examples, we can look back to the asbestos claims that did so much damage to Lloyds’ of London names and syndicates in the mid-1990s.

More recently, underwriters expressed fears about the aggregation of risk from lawsuits by football players at various levels of the sport. Players, from Pee Wee on up to the NFL, claim to have suffered irreversible brain damage from hits to the head.

That risk scenario has yet to fully play out — it will be decades in doing so — but it is already producing claims in the billions.

This year’s edition of our national-award winning coverage of the Most Dangerous Emerging Risks focuses on risks that have always existed. The emergent — and more dangerous — piece to the puzzle is that these risks are now super-charged with risk multipliers.

Take reputational risk, for example. Businesses and individuals that were sharply managed have always protected their reputations fiercely. In days past, a lapse in ethics or morals could be extremely damaging to one’s reputation, but it might take days, weeks, even years of work by newspaper reporters, idle gossips or political enemies to dig it out and make it public.

Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

These days, the speed at which Internet connectedness and social media can spread information makes reputational risk an existential threat. Information that can stop a glittering career dead in its tracks can be shared by millions with a casual, thoughtless tap or swipe on their smartphones.

Aggregation of uninsured risk is another area of focus of our Most Dangerous Emerging Risks (MDER) coverage.

The beauty of the insurance model is that the business expands to cover personal and commercial risks as the world expands. The more cars on the planet, the more car insurance to sell.

The more people, the more life insurance. Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

As Risk & Insurance® associate editor Michelle Kerr and her sources point out, growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, threaten to push the insurance coverage gap to critical levels.

This aggregation of uninsured value got a recent proof in CAT-filled 2017. The global tally for natural disaster losses in 2017 was $330 billion; 60 percent of it was uninsured.

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This uninsured gap threatens to place unsustainable pressure on public resources and hamstring society’s ability to respond to natural disasters, which show no sign of slowing down or tempering.

A related threat, the combination of a failing infrastructure and increasing storm severity, marks our third MDER. This MDER looks at the largely uninsurable risk of business interruption that results not from damage to your property or your suppliers’ property, but to publicly maintained infrastructure that provides ingress and egress to your property. It’s a danger coming into shape more and more frequently.

As always, our goal in writing about these threats is not to engage in fear mongering. It’s to initiate and expand a dialogue that can hopefully result in better planning and mitigation, saving the lives and limbs of businesses here and around the world.

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Critical Coverage Gap

Growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, are pushing the insurance protection gap to a critical level.

Climate Change as a Business Interruption Multiplier

Crumbling roads and bridges isolate companies and trigger business interruption losses.

 

Reputation’s Existential Threat

Social media — the very tool used to connect people in an instant — can threaten a business’s reputation just as quickly.

 

AI as a Risk Multiplier

AI has potential, but it comes with risks. Mitigating these risks helps insurers and insureds alike, enabling advances in almost every field.

 

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