Trying To Make The College A Less "Risky Business"

risk management
A graphic in the report which nutshells the college’s risk management process.

Running a college can be risky, with dozens of “threats” having the potential to affect its well-being.

That topic was the subject of an annual report tabled by St. Clair’s administration to the school’s Board of Governors during its October 22nd meeting.

More than a decade ago, when she was the college’s Senior Vice-President, now-President Patti France developed an easily understandable, colour-coded template for the annual Risk Management Report. (It was, in fact, so clever that a number of other Ontario colleges have adopted the format for their annual reporting on the subject.)

Basically, the report – presented to the BofG by Associate Vice-President of Communications and Information Technology Amar Singh – outlines almost every operational function of the school, and lays out scenarios of the problems, dilemmas, shortcomings, crises and catastrophes that could befall them ... everything from a major decline in enrolment (and, thus, revenue), to an active shooter assault, to a leaky roof, to a cyber-attack on the college’s computer systems. The 33-pages-long report goes through every bureaucratic operation of the school, and all of its “human elements” to identify potential threats to the college’s academic delivery, its corporate stability, and the health-and-safety of students and staff.

Attached to each of those topics is:

• the “threat level” of something actually happening (whether that likelihood is low, medium or high, based upon past experience and predictability); and

• its impact potential (1 meaning that there would be virtually no noticeable negative effect on operations if a problem was to occur, 2 meaning that there would be some problematic impact on services, and 3 designating a dire impact on services and the college’s well-being).

Finally, the far-right column on the report outlines all of the policies and procedures that have been put in place – as preventative measures – to attempt to eliminate, mitigate and/or reduce the occurrence of such incidents and/or the severity of their impact if they were to occur.

risk management
An example of the report’s content, with colour-coding to depict threat probability, potential impact and avoidance-and-mediation strategies.

Maybe some examples would be helpful ...

... Several sections of the report describe scenarios which could severely impact the college’s mid- to long-term financial well-being – such as a huge, unpredictable and inexplicable decline in enrolment which substantially cuts tuition revenue, or a similarly unpredictable roll-back of government grant funding.

Both of those may be identified as having a slim chance of occurring, but (if they did) they would each have Level 3 (hugely expensive) consequences.

One of the new “risk mitigation” strategies contained in the report to deal with such potential threats is the administration’s recommendation for the BofG to set aside $20 million in reserve funds designated specifically for “financial sustainability”. It has, historically, has $1 million set aside in reserves for “emergencies” (a major roof repair, replacing a dead furnace-boiler) ... but, now, the administration is suggesting a separate “piggy bank” that could help the college to keep its head afloat for a year or two during an unexpected financial downtown.

The capacity to create such a large reserve fund does exist at the moment, after the college concluded its 2018-19 fiscal year with a $40 million surplus arising from that year’s record-level enrolment.

In an interview after the meeting, France said the BofG had (in fact) approved the creation of the new $20 million reserve.

“This isn’t designed as an emergency fund for a roof repair for a boiler replacement,” the President noted. “This is a large reserve for multiple-year use in the event that a long-term financial crisis occurs, to sustain the college during such an event. As such, it can only be accessed by a Presidential recommendation coupled with full Board approval.”

The most disastrous scenario which many Canadian schools currently fear is of unforeseen political upheaval in one of their source-countries of international students, causing a drastic reduction in both enrolment and tuition revenue. In St. Clair’s case, for instance, international tuition is now the school’s largest single source of revenue. If that dried up overnight, it would be catastrophic. The new reserve – injected into the budget – would, at least, give the school a year or so to come up with solutions to its financial plight.

A few other new strategies popped up in the report this year, above-and-beyond references to long-standing college policies-and-procedures. They include:

• “The college has signed a one-year agreement ... along with 12 other colleges and five universities, for a shared Chief Information Security Officer (to protect the school’s computer systems). The goal of this group is to share security governance models, as well as share security threat intelligence and remediation”;

• Both student governments – Windsor’s Student Representative Council and Chatham’s Thames Students Incorporated – now hold their own liquour licences (and the liability requirements for administering them properly and safely);

• The college has purchased a video about active shooter strategies, for the training of applicable personnel;

• Due to the occurrence of the disease in the homelands of some of our international students, the college’s Health Centre is consulting more frequently with the regional Health Unit about suspected incidents of tuberculosis; and

• “To ensure that St. Clair is up-to-date on immigration laws/regulations that impact (international) students’ ability to acquire a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP), and to ensure that the college is compliant with all elements of being a Designated Learning Institute (DLI) to host international students, the college will (among other strategies) have two college staff members become certified as immigration advisors for the sole purpose of ensuring acquired knowledge of changing immigration legislation/guidelines.”

Also contained in the report was a review of the college’s insurance coverage. That included this synopsis:

PROPERTY

Primary: $200 million per occurrence

Excess: $100 million per occurrence

Total: $300 million

There is $10 million in extra expense coverage under the property policy. This type of coverage pays for additional costs in excess of normal operating expenses that an organization incurs to continue operations while its property is being repaired or replaced after having been damaged by a covered cause of loss.

COMMERCIAL GENERAL LIABILITY

Primary: $25 million per occurrence

Umbrella: $15 million per occurrence

Total: $40 million

DIRECTORS & OFFICERS

Primary: $5 million each loss

Excess: $10 million each loss

Total: $15 million

Cyber insurance coverage is in place for $5 million. If a cyber-related event were to occur, the cyber insurance policy would cover: data breach crisis management, business interruption, cyber extortion, network security liability and privacy liability.

Active Assailant coverage is in place for $10 million. If an active assailant (i.e. active shooter) event were to occur, the active assailant policy would cover liability, including bodily injuries, property damage, and business interruption, including loss of attraction. Terrorism and Sabotage coverage is in place for $100 million. If a terrorism event were to occur, the terrorism policy would cover liability, including property damage, bodily injuries, and business interruption.

See, also, the Board of Governors meeting story about the mid-year budget status, at: http://stclair-src.org/news/node/631

See, also, the Board of Governors meeting story about building projects on campus, at: http://stclair-src.org/news/node/629