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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

The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]