This Is Why Most Universities Get an “F” in Risk Management

By: | February 1, 2019 • 3 min read
John (Jack) Hampton is a Professor of Business at St. Peter’s University, a core faculty member at the International School of Management (Paris), and a Risk Insider at Risk and Insurance magazine where he was named a 2018 All Star. He was Executive Director of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS), dean of the schools of business at Seton Hall and Connecticut State universities, and provost of the College of Insurance and SUNY Maritime College in New York City.

On the first day of September in 1939, Germany invaded Poland without provocation. Two weeks later, the Soviet Union did the same from the other side. How did the Poles respond?

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The answer is they fought valiantly. More than one million Polish soldiers counterattacked, led by cavalry on horseback. Their efforts were a total disaster against tanks and airplanes.

An outmoded strategy and antiquated army structure were no match for modern, mechanized German forces. The war lasted a month, ending when Germany and Russia divided Poland between them.

Poland’s predicament is not unlike what’s happening today to college professors.

An attack by an overwhelming force has targeted higher education. On one side are critics that say a college degree is no longer needed. On another side are parents and students who say a college education has become an expensive waste of time and money.

Like the Polish army, professors are caught in the middle.

External forces allege that much of a college education does not prepare students for the lives they’ll lead and the careers they’ll pursue. College and university professors point out the humanistic and decision-making value of the content of their courses. Who’s right? It doesn’t matter. Students caught in the cross-fire are suffering.

Even a cursory look shows the problems for colleges and universities, particularly those not supported by large endowments:

  • Many are on government and accreditor financial deficiency watch-lists.
  • Part-time instructors are replacing full-time professors and tenure is disappearing.
  • Students are graduating, or failing to graduate, after being burdened by excessive levels of debt.
  • Legislators are turning away from financially supporting 4-year college programs.

This crisis in higher education has unfolded and is moving forward without enough participation of tenured and tenure-track faculty. The criticism is they are hired and rewarded for research and oftentimes not held accountable for helping students learn.

Whether true or not, college presidents and boards of trustees are taking aggressive steps. More than half of all college classes are now taught by part-time instructors. This is partly a financial decision and partly a belief that full-time professors are using obsolete strategies and technology.

The Poles had horses and swords. The Germans had tanks and planes. College professors have lectures and multiple-choice exams. Students need interaction with mentors and collaboration with fellow students.

What Can Higher Ed Do?

On this note, the professoriate should take heed of two universities that follow a different model: Southern New Hampshire and Governors Western universities show the future.

At SNHU, traditional and distance-learning programs co-exist to the benefit of individuals with varied educational and other needs. The institution has 150 full-time faculty and 5,100 part-timers. Tenure does not exist. Instructors are not encouraged to “publish or perish.” All are subject to dismissal if they fail to provide frequent and helpful support for their students.

WGU uses a competency-based learning model. Offering distance-learning programs, the university was founded by 19 U.S. governors in 1997, as a viable alternative to traditional, classroom-based learning. The University has 80 percent full-timers among its 3,800 instructors (mentors). Once again, tenure does not exist.

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SNHU has few full-time instructors. WGU has many. That’s not the important difference. Both universities reject the notion of a faculty primarily built upon research and longevity. Helping students learn is the goal. The standard is enforced rigorously.

The success of these schools should worry traditional colleges. As many private, nonprofit schools struggle financially, SNHU and WGU each have grown to approximately 100,000 students scattered across the United States.

The situation encourages professors at struggling schools to reflect on changes in higher education. Maybe they could get into the game. It’s dangerous to sit quietly refusing to modernize in the middle of angry and opposing forces. &

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]