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Violence, compliance ongoing issues for universities and colleges

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MINNEAPOLIS — On-campus violence and regulatory compliance are among major issues that university and college risk managers face, said Donna McMahon, newly elected president of the University Risk Management & Insurance Association Inc.

“The violence on campus, with both the shootings and sexual assault, are certainly high-profile issues. Sexual assault, which is often times coupled with alcohol, has never come off the list of one of the top risks of higher education,” Ms. McMahon said Monday in an interview at the association's Northern Stars of Risk conference in Minneapolis.

Several on-campus shootings have made gun violence a major concern for risk managers, she said.

“Campuses are on higher alert than they ever have been. Public campuses like to be open and that creates certain vulnerability; and depending on where you are located, that can sometimes give easier access to others,” said Ms. McMahon, who also is the assistant director of risk management at the University of Maryland.

Colleges must comply with the Clery Act, which requires public disclosure of violent acts on campus, as well as Title IX, the federal law that bars discrimination at educational institutions based on sex.

The nature of the student body also has changed, she said, with more students attending junior college and then transferring to a four-year institution.

“The best-kept secret is go to a community college and transfer,” Ms. McMahon said. “If you didn't get in to the four-year, then transfer and it's an automatic in.”

Aside from joining the university risk management organization, Ms. McMahon advises educational risk management professionals to actively involve themselves in discussions of issues.

“Initially, you need to invite yourself to the table and once they know what you do, then you will always be invited back,” she said.