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Office of Audit, Compliance & Privacy

Case in Point:
Lessons for the proactive manager

September 2020
Vol. 12 No. 09
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change“

-- Albert Einstein

Back in March when we moved to remote operations, I never imagined we would still be operating (largely) this way as we move into the final quarter of 2020. Yet here we are and despite the challenges, we continue to carry out the unique mission of higher education through education, research, and outreach.

Each month much of our newsletter focuses on things that have gone wrong in higher education; however, this month I wanted to point out some things that went right, despite the obstacles this year has brought. Here at AU, we transitioned quickly and relatively smoothly compared to what I heard from many of my colleagues in higher education. One reason for our smooth transition was the excellent work by Auburn University's Biggio Center. Educause highlighted this work in a recent article. Educause is a nonprofit association and the largest community of technology, academic, industry, and campus leaders advancing higher education through the use of IT.

I highlight this because the actions they took allowed us to continue carrying out our primary mission and I would argue is an example of effective risk management. The pandemic brought us unique strategic risks, and one important component of successful risk management is the ability to adjust to new and emerging risks quickly to ensure the mission continues.

We hope this publication assists you in being able to mitigate emerging risks quickly in your role. We again invite you to review the unique and emerging issues occurring across our industry. As always, we welcome your input and suggestions.

M. Kevin Robinson, CIA, CFE
Associate Vice President
Office of Audit, Compliance & Privacy
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Information Security & Technology Events

Sep 20: Phising incident: Patients of University of Missouri Health Care may have had their information exposed after an email phishing incident. In a statement on their website, MU Health Care said, "That information may have included names, dates of birth, medical record or patient account numbers, health insurance information, and/or limited treatment or clinical information, such as diagnostic, prescription, and/or procedure information. For some patients, a Social Security number was also identified." (link)

Sep 14:Breach Notification Law: Privacy and security continue to be at the forefront for legislatures across the nation, despite (or perhaps because of) the COVID-19 pandemic. In late May, with back-to-back amendments, Washington D.C. and Vermont significantly overhauled their data breach notification laws, including expansion of the definition of personal information, and heightened notice requirements. Now, Michigan may follow suit. (link)

Sep 09: ZoomBombing: A Houston resident was accused of interrupting a virtual University of Houston lecture with a bomb threat and by proclaiming his association to ISIS, the US Attorney's Office of the Southern District of Texas said Tuesday. The man was arrested on September 4 for making threats or conveying false information to destroy by means of fire or explosives and making a threat over interstate commerce charges. Allegedly the suspect interrupted a lecture on Zoom, a video conferencing app, on September 2 saying, "what does any of this have to do with the fact that UH is about to get bombed in a few days?" prosecutors said. (link)

Sep 04: Computer Breach: Personal information of some Oregon State University students and faculty members may have been compromised during a computer security breach this summer. A hacker accessed a computer server for the university’s Ecampus online education program, gaining access to records containing the names and OSU email addresses of about 1,700 students and faculty, the university announced on Thursday. (link)

Sep 02: Zoom bombing: At last Thursday’s Meet the B-Frats event, one of the major recruiting events for Miami University’s business fraternities, a hacker seized hosting controls of the Zoom call and took over Pi Sigma Epsilon’s (PSE) presentation with an image of a swastika, verbal threats and homophobic and racist pre-recorded audio. (link)

Fraud & Ethics Related Events

Sep 24: Improper Use of Research Gift: The University of California has sued an employee, alleging fraud, concealment and misappropriation of a $10 million research gift meant to study an experimental brain treatment. The day after the lawsuit was filed last week, the employee sued the UC system. The former UC San Diego vice chairman alleged whistleblower retaliation and named university higher-ups, including his former boss, as responsible for blocking his research efforts and punishing him for filing complaints about what happened. (link)

Sep 18: Payment Card Fraud: The facilities director of SUNY Empire College was busted Friday for allegedly stealing more than $31,999 through 171 unauthorized purchases on a school credit card that included Seiko watches, a high end purifier, power tools, kitchen appliances, truck and jeep parts, a lawnmower, snow-blower, leaf-blower and ski gloves, authorities said. (link)

Sep 18: Audit Request: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has submitted an audit request into ''the allegation of the waste of state funds'' towards the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. ''We’re trying to determine if any of the $441 million in state taxpayer funding that's been given to UVA, and Virginia Tech in fiscal year 2019 has been wasted on cruel animal experiments, which the universities deemed to be extraneous during their response to the COVID-19 pandemic,'' PETA Vice President of International Laboratory Methods Shalin Gala said. (link)

Sep 10: Financial Aid Fraud: Prosecutors said Thursday a Baton Rouge man filed bogus paperwork to defraud the federal student loan system and, when challenged by officials at the Baton Rouge Community College about questionable loans, arranged for himself and others to impersonate students to conceal the crime. (link)

Sep 10: Racial Fraud: Historian Jessica Krug, who last week admitted to being white and faking being Black for her entire career, resigned from her associate professorship at George Washington University, effective immediately, the institution announced Wednesday. But on the heels of her scandal comes another confession of racial fraud from a scholar. This time it’s a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison -- where Krug got her own Ph.D. (link)

Sep 08: Admission Fraud: The 57th person was charged in the admissions scandal that has been widely reported on in prior months. According to the indictment, in May 2014 Khoury agreed to pay Gordon Ernst, who at the time was employed as the head coach of men’s and women’s tennis at Georgetown University, approximately $200,000 through a third party in exchange for Ernst designating Khoury's daughter as a tennis recruit to Georgetown University, despite the fact that Khoury's daughter's tennis skills were below that of a typical Georgetown tennis recruit. (link)

Sep 01: Kickbacks: The former director of facility maintenance at American International Colleg, Floyd Young, pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme, admitting he skimmed nearly $1 million from contractors in exchange for hiring them for different jobs at the city campus as well as at three other colleges where he worked. ''Young steered contracts for construction, repair, maintenance, and other work for the collegiate institutions to favored contractors who paid him bribes, typically in the amount of 15% of the contract. The contractors inflated the amount of the invoices submitted to the collegiate institutions in order to be repaid the cost of the bribe payment made to Young,'' the statement said. ''On occasion, Young and the contractors arranged for no-work invoices to be submitted to the collegiate institutions and then split the payment,'' the statement said. (link)

Compliance/Regulatory & Legal Events

Sep 24: Inappropriate Influence: A state policy specifies that regents of the University of California ''should not seek to influence inappropriately the outcome of admissions decisions beyond sending letters of recommendation, where appropriate, through the regular admissions process and officers.'' An audit said that one unidentified regent inappropriately sent a letter on behalf of a less qualified applicant; outside the regular process and was then routed through the development office. (link)

Sep 17: Title IX complaint: The dean of Ohio University's Scripps College of Communication and the recently retired director of The E.W. Scripps School of Journalism are both under investigation by the university's Title IX office after a disgraced subordinate filed a complaint against them. A journalism professor who was suspended by the university in 2018 after a Title IX investigation found that he sexually harassed a graduate student and who is in the process of losing his tenure, filed complaints against both men with OU's Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (ECRC) office between April and May 2020, prompting the investigation, a university spokesperson confirmed. (link)

Sep 22: Admissions Audit: A California state audit released Tuesday found that the University of California system ''unfairly'' admitted at least 64 applicants based on ''personal or family connections to donors and university staff'' during the past six years, concluding a probe started in response to the 2019 national college admissions scandal at prestigious universities, including two UC schools. (link)

Sep 21: Sexual Abuse: A former supervisor in Brigham Young University's groundskeeping department been charged with sexually abusing one of his employees after displaying a gun. The alleged victim said the assault followed lesser instances of inappropriate conduct on supervisor's part, but she didn’t suspect her boss would someday assault her. (link)

Sep 18: Title VI Investigation: The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into whether Princeton University has violated provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs that receive federal funds. Depending on the results of the investigation, which was announced in a Sept. 16 letter to Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber, the U.S. Department of Education may seek to recover more than $75 million in Title IV taxpayer funds awarded to the university, as well as a possible fine. (link)

Sep 15: Title IX Suit: A University of Wisconsin student has sued the school, alleging she was discriminated against when it readmitted a football player after finding him responsible for violating the school's misconduct policy by sexually assaulting her. The woman alleges the university violated her due process rights by not following a proper appeals process that resulted in now-former football player being readmitted, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The lawsuit states the university did not adequately notify her about, or give her an opportunity to participate in, the appeal. (link)

Sep 17: Admissions Suit: A federal appeals court on Wednesday will consider whether Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American applicants in a closely-watched case that could impact whether U.S. colleges can use race as a factor in admissions. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston will hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), a non-profit founded by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum, and backed by the Trump administration. (link)

Sep 17: Tuition Reimbursement Suit: A graduate student has filed a class-action lawsuit against the University of Washington seeking repayment for tuition and mandatory fees citing the university’s response to COVID-19 campus closures and online learning, according to Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the Superior Court of the State of Washington, King County. It accuses the university of breach of contract and unjust enrichment and alleges that despite closing all University of Washington campuses, and transitioning to online learning, the university is still ''continuing to reap the financial benefit of millions of dollars from students.'' (link)

Sep 17: Title IX Compliance: Brown University announced today that it has agreed to reinstate both the women's equestrian team and the women’s fencing team to varsity status after both teams had been moved to club status in May. The partial reversal of a decision that originally demoted 11 varsity teams would end a legal standoff between the University and a group of plaintiffs who claimed the demotion of the women’s teams violated 1998 Cohen vs. Brown Title IX compliance agreement. (link)

Sep 11: Sexual Misconduct: The Manhattan District Attorney's Office is pursuing a criminal investigation into Columbia University's handling of sexual misconduct allegations involving former Columbia and New York-Presbyterian Hospital gynecologist a source with knowledge of the situation told CBS. (link)

Sep 04: Improper Relationship: North Texas quarterbacks coach has been put on administrative leave following his arrest for having an improper relationship with a student. ESPN's Dave Wilson reported that the coach's improper relationship stemmed from coaching at a nearby high school in Denton, Texas, in 2019. The incidents are alleged to have happened in October and December while serving as the offensive coordinator at Argyle High School. (link)

Sep 02: Title IX: Michigan State University identified more than 40 people and members of a university advisory council who may have known about Larry Nassar's and William Strampel's crimes, although most will not face discipline according to a new report. (link)

Campus Life & Safety Events

Sep 29: Covid19 Protocols: University President Fr. John Jenkins was seen without a mask and in close proximity to other maskless individuals while attending the nomination ceremony of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court Saturday. His actions sparked a range of reactions among faculty and students, including the creation of a petition calling for his resignation. The petition ''calls for the resignation of Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C. as University President, effective immediately, for failure to comply with COVID-19 protocols.'' (link)

Sep 17: Safer Dining Pickup: Due to Covid-19, Auburn Campus Dining added food lockers to Foy Hall to keep employees and costumers safe. Auburn students will be able to pre-order their food to 'Foy on the Fly,' a locker pickup station located in War Eagle Food Court. This system will stop students from entering buffet lines and reduce possible exposure to the Virus. (link)

Sep 14: Library Late Charges: Amid complications and confusion due to the coronavirus pandemic, several students are facing late fees and backlogs at the Yale Bookstore. When students were barred from campus last spring as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many were unable to bring books home with them. At the time, the University promised to either ship belongings to students’ homes or deliver possessions upon Yalies’ return to campus. However, as delays have prevented some students from being reunited with their possessions, the bookstore is demanding rented books back. Despite the fact that students do not have the ability to make returns, the bookstore has charged late fees. (link)

Sep 13: Unfortunate Timing: At West Virginia University, payment for fall charges was due Sept. 1. Less than a week later, on Sept. 7, WVU announced that most classes would move online because of a rising number of coronavirus cases on campus and effects on the surrounding community. Later that day, WVU said, ''There will be no refunds at this time, as class instruction is being delivered, and residence halls and dining services will function as normal.'' (link)

Sep 12: Graduate Student Strike: A number of graduate students who also teach at the University of Michigan went on strike this week to protest the university’s return to in-person learning amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. About 2100 members of the university’s Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) launched a strike Tuesday to demand better protections against COVID-19, in addition to new anti-policing measures. (link)

Sep 10: COVID Sanctions: More than 630 students at the University of Alabama and three student organizations have received sanctions for violating the school's COVID-19 regulations. A fourth organization is facing suspension, a university spokesperson told NBC News on Thursday. (link)

Sep 04: Covid19 Discipline: Northeastern University has dismissed 11 first-year students after they were caught violating social distancing rules, the school announced Friday, the latest and most aggressive attempt to prevent the pandemic from disrupting plans to return to Boston’s campuses this fall. The students were caught at the Westin Hotel, which is being used as a temporary dormitory this semester, on Wednesday night without masks and not social distancing. (link)

If you have any suggestions, questions or feedback, please e-mail me at robinmk@auburn.edu. We hope you find this information useful and would appreciate hearing your thoughts. Feel free to forward this email to your direct reports, colleagues, employees or others who might find it of value. Back issues of this newsletter are available on our web site.

If you have any suggestions for items to include in future newsletters, please e-mail Robert Gottesman at gotterw@auburn.edu.

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