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Best Practices to Enhance a University’s Compliance Program, Part II [Higher-Ed/College Athletics Best Practices Alert (Second Quarter 2014)]

Author: Michael L. Buckner, Esquire (Shareholder)

A world-class compliance program permits colleges and universities to monitor and affect decision making to achieve desired outcomes. Further, an effective compliance program reflects the legal and regulatory scheme in which a university must operate. Buckner continues its series exploring best practices that can be implemented to improve the effectiveness of a university compliance program.

The measures discussed below can be used by an institution to boost efforts to comply with federal law, state statutes, NCAA legislation or other requirements:

  1. Compliance as a priority: Declare the university compliance program an organizational priority, and ensure the compliance program operation has clear and concise strategies and tactics. Accordingly, an institution should provide the compliance program with a sufficient budget, staff, areas of control and authority so that the fulfillment of the strategies and tactics result in guaranteeing compliance and ethics remain an organizational priority.
  2. Education and training: A comprehensive compliance program uses an education and training component to convey the necessary knowledge to employees, students and third parties. The education and training should be: flexible enough so it can meet the needs of the university community over the next two to three years; revised continuously in core subject areas to reflect recent events and trending issues; and offer alternate ways or formats of learning key information (e.g., conducting small group discussions, online training, newsletters, workshops and other methods).
  3. Policies to address emerging technologies: A compliance program should monitor and proactively propose policies to address emerging technologies and trends. For example, after a thorough review of applicable federal and state statutes, numerous colleges and universities have implemented policies to prevent liabilities associated with careless actions on behalf of employees and students who use social media. Carefully crafted and legally-compliant policies can address situations when: (a) employees post information on personal Facebook pages from home that could affect the work environment in a detrimental manner, including disclosing students’ educational records or health information; and (b) student-athletes, coaches or other athletics department members disclose information deemed confidential under NCAA legislation.
  4. Customize the compliance program: A college or university is wise to invest ample time and resources to customize and tailor a compliance program to fit the campus’ unique needs. Although search engines and industry groups offer sample compliance policies, a compliance program should be customized and adapted to fit the institution’s specific circumstances, structure and issues.
  5. Annual compliance evaluations: An institution should require an annual assessment or evaluation of the compliance program. An annual review provides critical feedback to understand what aspects of the compliance program is working and what areas need to improve. The assessment can be conducted internally (e.g., internal audit) or externally (e.g., law firm, auditing firm).

Sources: "Key Trends, Issues and Best Practices in Compliance 2013", NAVEX Global, http://www.slideshare.net/NAVEXGlobal/navex-global-bestpracticesincompliance12172013 (visited April 20, 2014); Michael Volkov, “Best Practices For Anti-Corruption Compliance Programs – A Moving Target”, JD Supra, LLC (March 26, 2014), http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/best-practices-for-anti-corruption-compl-29952 (visited April 20, 2014); Bryan Barajas, "7 Key Takeaways and Best Practices from the 2014 HCCA Compliance Institute", PreCheck (April 8, 2014), http://www.precheck.com/blog/7-key-takeaways-and-best-practices-2014-hcca-compliance-institute (visited April 20, 2014).

Contact Michael L. Buckner (954-941-1844; mbuckner@bucknersportslaw.com) for additional information on compliance program best practices.