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Recent ORAU annual meeting highlighted compliance complexity in higher education - Federal regulations require diligence from academic institutions
By: 
Pam Bonee
Date: 
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Colleges and universities face many complex issues as they navigate the growing number of federal regulations. Institutions of higher education spend considerable financial resources to stay in compliance. Speakers at the 72nd annual meeting of the ORAU Council of Sponsoring Institutions clarified select regulations and presented practical solutions for overcoming hurdles.

The recent two-day meeting hosted by ORAU at Pollard Technology Conference Center involved nearly 150 attendees, and speakers addressed regulatory reform to compliance processes.

Keynote speaker Brett Sweet, vice chancellor for finance and chief financial officer of Vanderbilt University, observed the substantial increase in the magnitude of federal regulations since the 1950s and noted the administrative and enforcement expenses tied to these regulations.

“While some regulation is valuable, compliance and reporting add a material cost burden to post-secondary education. This is especially true for research institutions,” Sweet said.

A task force led by Vanderbilt University sought to identify areas with high and low concentrations of cost. Areas of greatest cost burden include grants and contracts, human subjects research, environmental health and safety, animal research and accreditation. In the task force’s report, 10 specific regulations of concern were listed, including institutional accreditation, warnings of campus threats and financial responsibility standards. Sweet indicated that a significant share of the burden can potentially be addressed through regulatory reform.

The regulatory framework for the 21st century was the topic for Larry Faulkner, who discussed efforts under way to reform federal regulatory systems particularly as they relate to the research enterprise. Faulkner is chair of the Committee on Federal Research Regulations and Reporting Requirements, National Academy of Sciences. In his remarks, Faulkner noted to advance government/academic partnerships, research institutions must demand the highest standards in institutional and individual behavior. This can only be achieved if universities foster a culture of integrity among academic leaders, faculty, post-doctoral trainees, students, staff and institutional administrators.

ORAU President and CEO Andy Page echoed the same theme of partnerships.

“With a consortium of 120 Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU has a unique opportunity during this event to convene the people who can work together to make institutions better equipped to comply with regulations and still meet the growing demands of research and technology,” Page said.

In addition to the keynote presentations, three panel discussions allowed attendees to learn more about several areas of regulations. In the first panel discussion, Doug Backman illuminated the recently implemented cybersecurity regulations as related to controlled unclassified information. He is director of the Office of Compliance, University of Central Florida. Carl Mahler, executive director of the Office of Technology Transfer, University of North Carolina Charlotte, briefed attendees on patent laws put in place in 2011 which potentially work to the disadvantage of educational institutions. Karen Mullin provided practical guidance about faculty consulting relationships to ensure adherence to institutional policies and avoidance of liability. She is chief general counsel for the Forsyth Institute.

A second panel discussion focused on enhancing and supporting diverse faculty environments, and it featured Meredith Smith, Title IX coordinator, Tulane University; Lee Tyner, general counsel, University of Mississippi; and Robert Shibley, executive director, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

A third panel discussion examined models for strengthening the future of higher education by balancing new policies and practices. Panelists were Louis Soares, vice president for Strategy, Research and Advancement, American Council on Education; Malcolm Brown, director, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative; and Tobin Smith, vice president for Policy, Association of American Universities.

The day before the official opening of the annual meeting, attendees were given the opportunity to tour the Manhattan National Historical Park facilities, which included the X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The guided tour was well-received by participants, who commented on the rich history of Oak Ridge. Also, a new councilor orientation session was held to inform individuals about opportunities for universities to collaborate with ORAU.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Learn more about ORAU at www.orau.org.

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