Case In Point: Lessons for the proactive manager
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Case In Point: Lessons for the proactive manager
Volume 13 Number 01 | January 2021
Quotable .....
“A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. The simpleton never looks and suffers the consequences.”

-- Proverbs 27:12

This month we will begin our analysis of the stories in each of the Case in Point categories from 2020. We perform this assessment with a view toward identifying emerging trends and hot topics.

Despite major disruptions in how we operated during the last year, we see mostly similar numbers to 2019:

  • Information Security & Technology: 11% (up slightly from 8% in 2019)
  • Fraud & Ethics: 17% (up slightly from 16% from 2019)
  • Compliance & Legal: 47% (up from 43% in 2019)
  • Campus Life & Safety: 25% (down from 33% from 2019)
  • Other: 1% (no change from 2019)

As you see above, the largest decline was in Campus Life & Safety, which intuitively makes sense to us because much of the year occurred remotely and normal events did not occur on campus.

With respect to emerging trends, there are two major areas that United States institutions should pay attention to over the next year. First, with the change in administration at the federal level, substantial changes will certainly occur both in legislation passed and in sub-regulatory guidance that dictates how federal agencies will interpret and enforce regulations that apply to higher education. We will attempt to link major stories on these changes each month as they emerge.

Second, changes being proposed regarding college athletes' rights have the potential to fundamentally change college sports as we know it. Multiple factors are in play here from both NCAA regulations, Congressional actions, and a major case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Institutions with athletics programs will need to pay close attention to these events—many of which are expected to come to a head this summer.

As a reminder for our new readers, we recommend that you scan the headlines each week, read the articles related to your area of responsibility at your institution, and share the current events and lessons learned with others you work with. We believe this helps cultivate a strong proactive risk culture within the institution. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

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

Jan 27: Remote Proctoring: A group of Democratic senators, led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, called on three online proctoring companies to respond to equity and privacy concerns raised by students last month. The senators' inquiry stemmed from reports that, in some cases, facial recognition software failed to identify students of color and students who wear religious garb, like a hijab. Students with disabilities also said online proctoring technology flagged their involuntary movements, like muscle spasms, as possible signs of cheating. The exchange between senators and companies shines a spotlight on an industry that's boomed since the COVID-19 pandemic shifted courses online, raising questions about the benefits and ethical challenges of using technology to monitor test-takers remotely. (link)

Jan 25: Ransomware Attack: Tennessee Wesleyan University was the target of a cyber attack that held certain files for ransom last week. The university is currently investigating the attack that was made on the campus network early Friday morning along with local officials, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), and TWU's insurance company's cyberattack team. According to a press release by TWU, all of the university's networks had been shut down since just before 10 a.m. as campus officials became aware of the attack. (link)

Jan 11: Data Breach: On November 20, 2020, LSU Health New Orleans Health Care Services Division (LSU HCSD) notified the public of a data breach through an employee's email account. LSU HCSD has since become aware that the employee's electronic mailbox also included information from its partner hospital, University Medical Center- New Orleans (UMC-NO.) UMC-NO was notified by LSU HCSD of the possibility that some of its patients' protected information may have been accessible to the cyber intruder. UMC-NO is in the process of conducting its own investigation and discovery. (link)

Jan 01: Software Breach: Kent State University is among 24 organizations identified by the Wall Street Journal as having software on its computers that gave hackers potential access to data. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the hackers may have had access to Kent State's systems for more than a year. The Wall Street Journal reports that Kent State computers were infected with a tainted network monitoring software called SolarWinds Orion that allowed hackers to access the network through a so-called "backdoor" in the code. (link)

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Fraud & Ethics Related Events

Jan 28: Academic Cheating: It's called "chegging." College students everywhere know what it means. "If I run out of time or I'm having problems on homework or an online quiz," says Matt, a 19-year-old sophomore at Arizona State, "I can chegg it." He means he can use Chegg Study, the $14.95-a-month service he buys from Chegg, a tech company whose stock price has more than tripled during the pandemic. It takes him seconds to look up answers in Chegg's database of 46 million textbook and exam problems and turn them in as his own. In other words, to cheat. (Matt asked that his real name be withheld because he knows he's violating his school's honor code.) (link)

Jan 15: Embezzlement: A former administrator at the University of Kansas Medical Center faces criminal charges that he embezzled more than $500,000 from KU. A charging document filed this week in federal court accuses Michael Ahlers of diverting the money from the KUMC Credit Union between 2009 and 2015. Ahlers, a resident of Lenexa, Kansas, was the administrator of the med center's occupational therapy education department. According to the complaint, he was the sole signatory on the credit union account. The document also charges him with income tax evasion because he allegedly failed to report the money on his tax returns. (link)

Jan 14: Grant Fraud: A professor and researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was charged and arrested today in connection with failing to disclose contracts, appointments and awards from various entities in the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the U.S. Department of Energy. Gang Chen, 56, was charged by criminal complaint with wire fraud, failing to file a foreign bank account report (FBAR) and making a false statement in a tax return. Since 2012, Chen has allegedly held various appointments with the PRC designed to promote the PRC's technological and scientific development by providing advice and expertise -- sometimes directly to PRC government officials -- and often in exchange for financial compensation. (link)

Jan 11: Bribery: A current and former Cleveland State University employee are among five people indicted in what prosecutors say was a scheme that steered more than $250,000 in contracts to one of the employee's relatives. Marlene Gombach approved grant-funded contracts to pay media companies owned by her son, nephew and business associate in exchange for cash bribes from 2013 to 2016, when she worked as a project manager in the university's Center for Excellence and Innovation in Education, according to the indictment. (link)

Jan 06: Embezzlement: McGill University's former assistant director of residences told the Quebec parole board that stealing from the school at first seemed easy, but he eventually realized he had opened a Pandora's box that placed him behind bars. Nycklass, an engineer, was hired by McGill in 2005 as a manager of the university's construction projects. He represented the university in meetings with construction companies, managed projects and verified whether work was being done on budget. (link)

Jan 01: Ethics: The internal audit office at Western Washington University is tasked with investigating and preventing legal and financial risk. But it has instead become the epicenter of sudden firings, lawsuits and even a police escort from a board of trustees meeting in recent years. After one former auditor sued, claiming he was pushed out over an audit of a former president's travel expenses, Western settled for $216,000. His successor, Antonia Allen, sued the university earlier this month for alleged retaliation and wrongful termination. Allen was fired soon after her office completed a contentious audit into the use of "ghost courses" to pad students' credit loads, which her office reported as fraud to federal investigators. (link)

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Compliance/Regulatory & Legal Events

Jan 25: Child Pornography: The Butte County Sheriff's office Monday released information about the arrest of CSU, Chico History Professor Laird McLeod Easton for possession of child pornography. Investigators say they uncovered evidence that showed Easton was downloading child pornography and on January 20th obtained a warrant for his arrest. A search warrant was served at Easton's home on Citrus Avenue in Chico on January 21st. Detectives and University Police Department Officers also served a search warrant at Easton's Office on campus. (link)

Jan 22: Excessive Force Lawsuit: A UC Santa Cruz graduate student is suing the university and its police for clubbing and badly injuring her during what she said was a peaceful picket last year. Sabrina Shirazi, a teaching assistant and Ph.D. candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, was one of several hundred students, faculty and staff who gathered outside the campus entrance in February to protest what they said was the university's refusal to provide cost-of-living increases to graduate student employees faced with rising housing costs. Grad student teachers had called a strike that day, saying they could no longer afford food or rent. (link)

Jan 19: Title IX: The Michigan State University women's swimming and diving team filed on Friday a class action lawsuit against the university alleging a violation of Title IX. The lawsuit asks that the university reinstate the women's swimming and diving program, cut by Athletic Director Bill Beekman in October along with the men's program. Beekman announced the cuts of the swimming and diving teams as a cash-saving effort for an athletic department staring down a more than $30 million revenue shortfall due to the pandemic. He said at the time that it would save around $2 million for the university. (link)

Jan 18: NCAA Violations: Jeremy Pruitt is out in Tennessee. The university fired the third-year coach on Monday amidst an ongoing internal investigation into recruiting violations. Newly hired defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will serve as acting head coach. The university and NCAA are investigating alleged recruiting violations within the program. Tennessee has also retained a pair of lawyers to aide in the investigation. Because he is being fired for cause, Tennessee will not pay his buyout clause, which was set for $12,880,000, according to the USA Today coaching salary database. His termination will be effective at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a letter released by the school. (link)

Jan 16: Athlete Death Settlement: The University of Maryland has agreed to a $3.5 million settlement with the parents of football player Jordan McNair, who died of heatstroke following a workout in 2018. Jordan McNair collapsed during an outdoor conditioning practice held by the team on May 29, 2018. The 19-year-old was treated at the team training complex before being transported to the hospital, where he died two weeks later, on June 13. (link)

Jan 13: Breach of Contract: A former assistant coach for Mizzou Football filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the university, claiming breach of contract. In the lawsuit, Derek Dooley said Mizzou terminated his contract "without cause" after the Tigers' 2019 football season. That contract, according to the lawsuit, allowed Dooley to accept payment for his remaining salary if the University terminated the contract without cause. The contract was set to expire in February 2022, and was to pay Dooley around $925 thousand dollars in monthly installments just over $77,000 each. (link)

Jan 11: Forced Labor Lawsuit: A second group of international students has sued Western Iowa Tech Community College, alleging the school and local businesses used them for cheap labor and failed to provide promised educational opportunities. The students, nine from Brazil and two from Chile, were recruited to the Sioux City school through the federal J-1 Student Study Program and said they were told they'd be in a two-year degree program, receive scholarships covering tuition and housing, and be provided with an internship in their field of study. Instead, they said, they were often forced to work more than 50 hours a week at two local factories and were told they would be deported or have housing and food withheld if they missed work because of illness. The treatment amounted to human trafficking and forced labor, the lawsuit said. (link)

Jan 05: Sexual Assault: The vice president for Manhattanville Development at Columbia University has been arrested on aggravated sex assault and other charges for allegedly engaging in sex acts with a child younger than 13 in New Jersey, officials say. Prosecutors said Tuesday that Marcelo Velez, identified on Columbia's website as its "point person on all aspects of development, design and construction" for the university's 6.8 million-square-foot campus expansion in West Harlem was taken into custody at his New Jersey home Monday after an investigation. (link)

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Campus Life & Safety Events

Jan 27: Vaccine Distribution/Privacy: Georgetown University is seeking disciplinary action against students it says received the coronavirus vaccine despite not currently being eligible under D.C.'s vaccination rollout. As it stands, the COVID-19 vaccine is only available to third- and fourth-year Georgetown medical school students because they regularly interact with patients in a health care setting. The university did not elaborate on how the students had access to the vaccine without eligibility nor how many were involved, citing federal privacy regulations. (link)

Jan 28: Tuition Strike: More than 1,000 Columbia University students are withholding this semester's tuition as they demand that the Ivy League school in New York City lower its cost amid financial burdens and the move to online classes prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Students initiated the tuition strike last Friday, when payments for the semester were due. In a sweeping list of demands, students accused the school of demonstrating a "flagrant disregard for initiatives democratically supported within the community." The striking students are asking the school to lower tuition by at least 10 percent and to increase financial aid. (link)

Jan 26: Racist Vandalism: Police at the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill issued two arrest warrants on Monday in connection with racist and antisemitic graffiti discovered in a campus building over the weekend. In a statement Monday, UNC Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert A. Blouin and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amy Johnson said the vandalism happened at the Campus Y sometime between Saturday and Sunday. They said a person unlawfully entered the building and defaced several offices, leaving behind antisemitic symbols and a racial epithet on a white board, the local ABC affiliate reported. (link)

Jan 20: Abuse Allegations: In all, 22 people -- 14 players, six parents, an assistant coach and an athletic trainer -- spoke out against Nelson in a 71-page document sent to Purdue University officials in May. The document, compiled by Martin Greenberg, an attorney hired by players and parents, was obtained by IndyStar in October. It alleges mental and physical abuse by Nelson, along with NCAA violations since she was hired as head coach. The document demands an independent investigation of Nelson and her staff. Among the allegations in the document sent to Purdue officials: Nelson mocked players for depression, forced them to play through injuries, pressured them to go on medications, such as antidepressants, called them out of shape and fat, withheld medical care, denied them food as punishment, didn't allow players to see a psychologist without a coaching staff present and once told a player to "get over it" after a sexual assault. (link)

Jan 06: Robberies: Four men have been charged with multiple robberies that were reported in the University of Alabama campus area. Isaiah Jamal Farrow, 20, Keon Lamar Brown, 23, Jaylen Jakobie Fulghun, 22, and Deshaun Darnell Bryant, 23, were all taken into custody in December, Tuscaloosa police said in a social media post on Wednesday. The first case in the Tuscaloosa police jurisdiction was reported around midnight on Nov. 29. Three suspects allegedly approached a man near the Strip and asked if the man wanted to purchase marijuana. (link)

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If you have any suggestions, questions or feedback, please e-mail Kevin Robinson at or Robert Gottesman at 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.

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