Using an Admin or Executive Assistant

Executive/Personal Assistants (EAs) save their bosses time, and as we have all heard before, time is money. EAs can make enormous contributions to productivity at all levels of an organization by:

  • Ensuring that meetings begin on time with prep material delivered in advance
  • Optimizing travel schedules and enable remote decision making, keeping projects on track
  • Serving as sounding boards
  • Conducting corporate research
  • Funneling busy administrative tasks away from managers who can then, in turn, use their time more wisely
  • Serving as crucial resource during the acclimation period for new hires

In an effort to cut costs and reduce headcount, many companies have significantly reduced their executive assistant staff even for highly paid middle and upper managers. But a good business should use a structure in which work is delegated to the lowest-cost employee who can do it well; too often there is too much administrative work to do and not enough assistants to do it.

Managers can capitalize on an executive assistant by thinking wisely about which tasks can be taken on by the assistant, establishing a trusting relationship as opposed to that of a micromanager, and employing effective communication. While answering emails is a basic assistant task, more assistants these days are taking on more supervisory roles; they are managing information flow, dealing with basic financial management, attending meetings in place of their bosses, serving as the face of the company, and doing more planning and organizing. When a manager exhibits trust in his or her assistant, they will gain a higher return. In turn, great assistants look for ways to stretch and improve their skills, taking extra time to learn, for instance, more about the functions of the particular company and new technologies.

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Emergency Notifications, Texting, and the FCC

Since 1990, federal law has required colleges and universities to have a notification system for emergencies such as natural disasters, active shooters, bomb threats and more.  K-12 schools are also required to develop emergency alerting protocols.  Campuses send out critical information through multiple fronts, such as text alerts, broadcast emails, institution homepages, apps, and Twitter.

The Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 prompted campuses across the country to strengthen their notification systems. There have been a number of campus crisis over the years that have affirmed the need for these systems.  There are a number of best practices campuses should follow in implementation and ongoing maintenance of their systems:

  • Consolidate emergency notification delivery methods into a single activation portal- a provider of emergency communications solutions can help.
  • Use several technologies; no one method of communication will reach everyone. However, choose the delivery methods most appropriate for the situation- don’t use the all-or-nothing approach to issuing alerts.
  • Determine ahead of time the situations when you will activate your emergency notification system.
  • Incorporate adequate logical security measures to protect your SMS alert database.
  • Train several people to send out notifications, but also determine who has authority to issue alerts- there shouldn’t be too many decision makers.
  • Collaborate with and consider sharing emergency notification providers with local, off-campus emergency services.
  • Market your mass notification program, and educate the campus community on how the system is used, what to expect and what to do during an emergency.
  • Automate your database; tie in student enrollment and human resource databases, automatically scan for students and employees no longer associated with the school.
  • As with any parts of an institution’s emergency management and campus safety plan, it is important to test it throughout the year and various circumstances.  

Text messaging is the most effective way to reach students, families, faculty, and staff. With an opt-in approach, students must voluntarily sign up for alerts, while with opt-out, students are automatically signed up but can choose to opt-out.

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When schools automatically enroll everyone in the systems and provide them with an opt-out opportunity, significantly more people remain enrolled in the system. Most emergency managers and campus safety officials recommend automatically enrolling the whole community.  

FCC regulations, federal law, and court rulings (https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-16-88A1.pdf) do allow for emergency texts and calls without prior consent from individuals.  

Required or automatic enrollment should only be used for emergency messages and not for routine messages, event reminders, etc.  Institutions must be careful to avoid “alert fatigue,” which occurs when a system is overused. If people on campus receive alerts too often, they stop seeing them as urgent and may not take the proper action when needed.

Campuses need to find a balance between using it for advisories and emergency notifications. If your campus needs any help with emergency management and campus safety work, please be in touch.  

Posted in Campus Safety, Emergency Notification, Federal Guidance, Higher Education, K12, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Defense of Multitasking…But Not That Kind.

Multitasking is fine.  Really, it is.  But not in the way you are probably thinking.  Of course, humans cannot really do two things at the same time with full attention and efficiency.

What we can do is using down beats and slow times effectively:

  • Waiting in line? Good! Time to catch up on some personal development podcasts or reading.
  • On the train or bus and have several more steps? Good! Clear out some emails, send some texts to loved ones.
  • Stuck in traffic? Good! Make a (hands-free, please!) phone call that you have not had time to make.
  • On a silly conference call that you were required to be on but do not have any contributions? Good! Update your calendar, clear out and organize the junk drawer.

Even if you are not a “list-person”, you should keep a list of things that are valuable to your work and life that take between 2-10 minutes.

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What have you done today?

Everyday is an important day. As a leader, and as a person, there are things that you can do to advance your team, family, organization, and yourself?

My passions are leadership, productivty, education, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and emergency management. I feel strongly in advancing them (most of them, anyway…) everyday. What are your passions? Did you move them forward today? Even for just 15 minuites?

Call one person, write one blog post, send one thank you note, do one push up, do something!

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Blue Lights On Campus are Security Theatre…And That’s Okay

Blue light emergency phones became mainstays on college campuses about thirty years ago. During freshman orientations nationwide, students are instructed to push the ‘call’ button on the always-lit LED blue towers when they feel unsafe, and campus police will respond through a speaker and arrive at the location. Some have speakers that can broadcast announcements, security cameras that capture video footage, and provide services like information requests, campus escorts late at night and car assistance.

While the ubiquity of cell phones has sparked a debate about the necessity of blue light phones, campus officials might consider the benefits of keeping highly visible phones in service for the purpose of marketing safety.

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Campuses that continue to pour money into maintenance and even expansion of blue light phones tout their legitimate value to campus security and their reliability over cell phones. In recent years, for example, University of North Carolina added them to new areas of campus as they grew, and campus police officials argue that their visibility and reliability enhance campus safety. People panic in an emergency and may not have the campus security number saved- even the three-digit 911 can be stressful to dial when panicking. Plus, cell phones can be left elsewhere and the battery can die. Blue light phones, on the other hand, don’t rely on batteries, can pinpoint locations accurately, and provide direct contact with emergency personnel on site. They also provide reliable communication when a high rate of traffic might overwhelm cellular networks.

On the flip side, those taking the route of mass removal cite the phones’ lack of use in actual emergencies and the more common use of cell phones. University of North Carolina at Greensboro, for instance, received nearly 10,500 calls for service in 2013, but only 90 came from the emergency phones. On many campuses, prank calls are more common than legitimate ones, which divert resources from real emergencies. In addition, repair can be expensive, and many campus buildings already have phones that can automatically dial out 911. The University of California at Davis removed more than 100 outdated emergency phones in 2011 after installing a wireless 911 system on campus.

Some schools are taking a comprehensive approach and augmenting the blue light system with mobile security apps. Even campuses experiencing normal and routine malfunctions to the blue phone technology are introducing phone apps as a modern approach to campus security. University of Florida’s free Gatorsafe app can report tips to the UF Police Department, make emergency calls and perform other functions that improve their personal safety and security. Other schools are contracting with already established apps, such as Rave Guardian, which works with Brown University and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Earlier this year, University of Colorado Boulder entirely removed the remaining blue phones on its campus after introducing a contracted security app called LifeLine Response. University of Connecticut has developed an Alert system, which texts and emails participants. University of Southern California (USC) has created its own app called Trojan Mobile Safety which allows students to report a crime, call for assistance and tell people where they are on with the safewalk feature. The app is free to USC students and the school pays the licensing for the app.

Regardless of which side of the cell phone vs. blue light phone debate campuses fall on, all should consider the added benefit of marketing an image of safety on campus. Blue light phones are a beacon of safety, and removal might trigger negative reactions from community members. Students and parents appreciate the phone’s function as a visible deterrent that provides them with the peace of mind of knowing they are in a safe environment.

Some students at Westminster College in Salt Lake City report that they see the blue lights as a comforting sign on campus. When students at Southern Methodist University were questioned about their use of the blue emergency lights, all said they had never used them, but agreed that they provided peace of mind, especially when walking around late at night on campus. Diane Brown, the public information officer at University of Michigan, believes that their value, which can’t be calculated, lies in deterring crime.

Penn State Chief of Police Tyrone Parham said that even with the phones not being used often, there are no plans to get rid of the emergency phones, citing that he hears from parents, students and prospective students that they’re wanted. It’s almost an expectation for any campus to have them installed. Campus members want to ensure the community that they are working to keep students safe, and their presence can serve as a conversation starter for admissions to talk to prospective students about safety.

The most logical route is to keep the phones that are in highly visible areas, those whose value lies in the perception of security that they create despite their infrequent use.

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Title IX and Trump/DeVos – What will happen under the new President and Secretary of Education?

By Matthew Colpitts

In the wake of the Dear Colleague Letter issued by the Department of Justice and Department of Education on February 22, the future of Title IX and how it will be implemented has come into question, with many critics of the new President and Secretary of Education concerned that recent changes will halt progress and damage the civil rights of students in our schools and colleges.

Title IX

Introduced in 1972, Title IX is part of the Education Amendments legislation that was introduced to govern gender discrimination and sexual misconduct in American educational institutions who receive federal funding.

The Obama administration focused heavily on Title IX with former Vice President, Joe Biden, at the helm of a team tasked with producing a guidance document as to how Title IX should be interpreted and implemented in American schools and colleges. The guidance document came with the clear conditions that schools and colleges who did not abide by the steps laid out in investigating cases and providing protection to students would not receive further federal funding.

A “Dear Colleague Letter” distributed in 2011 instructed on procedures to respond to accusations of sexual violence, assault, and misconduct within schools and colleges. “Dear Colleague” letters are nothing new when it comes to Title IX. In fact, a recent letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education states that the Office for Civil Rights “has issued at least 27 ‘Dear Colleague’ letters, policy interpretations, guidance letters, and clarifications of Title IX, most of them directed to schools or colleges as a whole” (http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/letters/article-on-title-ix-repeated-common-misconceptions/).

It is the letter of February 22, and a series of their statements (also, lack of statements), that has cast doubts over whether the new Secretary for Education, Betsy DeVos, and a Trump presidency will support and uphold the guidance laid down by the previous administration.

Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as the Secretary of Education was met with considerable doubt from the education sector and even within government. The appointment was one of the most politically controversial of the Trump administration to date and divided the senate. Two members of the Republican Party went against the party vote to reject her candidacy and critics have questioned her qualifications for the job. With a vote of 50 senators for and 50 against her appointment, the tie-breaking vote to confirm her was cast by Vice President Mike Pence.  

SecDeVosConcerns about DeVos’ qualifications rose when she was first named as a potential candidate for the role. Her suitability for the job, given her lack of experience and her financial affiliations, was called into question. DeVos’ privileged family background also meant that her experience of the education system, and those of her children and family, were all through private education. Her understanding of the public system was queried by those opposed to DeVos’ appointment. These fears were heightened at her confirmation hearing when her knowledge of the education sector appeared alarmingly scant.

A key worry arising from the hearing surrounded her response to Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr’s questions about Title IX. When asked if she would uphold the Title IX guidance that was introduced by the Obama administration, DeVos could not give a definitive answer. She first hinted at potential policy changes but when further pushed on the matter, replied that it was ‘premature’ for her to confirm whether she planned to uphold the guidance.

Within days of becoming Secretary for Education, DeVos’ position on the Title IX guidance became the subject of more debate. On February 22, the Department of Education Press Office issued a new statement rescinding the former guidance document on the grounds that the former document was legally questionable. The document focusses on the “Bathroom Debate”, reversing the right of transgender students to use the bathroom appropriate to their gender identity.

According to The New York Times, three reliable Republican sources reported that the decision to remove the protections afforded to transgender students was ordered by President Trump. The article claims that:

Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off and told Mr. Trump that she was uncomfortable because of the potential harm that rescinding the protections could cause transgender students. (New York Times, Trump Rescinds Rules on Bathrooms for Transgender Students, Jeremy W. Peters, Jo Becker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, 22nd February 2017)

New Guidance

The Dear Colleague Letter, issued to all schools and colleges in the US who receive federal funding, has been presented as the New Title IX Guidance. Herein lies one of the fundamental problems with the document. The letter addresses the “Bathroom Debate” and claims that the previous guidance documents do not ‘contain extensive legal analysis or explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX, nor did they undergo any formal public process.’ (Dear Colleague letter, Feb 22, 2017, Department of Justice & Department of Education)

The letter, therefore, pronounces the Obama era guidance documents as irrelevant. The letter does not issue any guidelines as to how schools and colleges should respond to sexual violence, harassment and misconduct, other than to place responsibility for policy making to individual States and school districts.

Republican Views on Title IX

While Betsy DeVos’ stance on Title IX is still vague at best, her financial contributions and the contributions of her family suggest that there is a conflict of interest when it comes to upholding guidance. Towing the republican line on the matter, the DeVos family have made substantial financial donations to FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE has been actively opposed to the guidance on Title IX and has contested how Title IX operates under the former guidance document. Promoting an agenda that prioritizes the protection of the accused in cases of sexual violence, assault, and harassment, FIRE argues that the former guidelines, in an attempt to protect victims, violate the rights of the accused.

The document of 22nd February reflects the conservative view that the Obama Administration Guidelines were overreaching and outside of the scope of the Department of Education, returning policy making and decisions about implementation of Title IX to State and local level.

What the future holds for the 300+ cases of sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination currently under investigation according to the old guidance remains to be seen.

Title IX is Not Under Threat

It’s important to note, however, that the concerns relate specifically to guidance documents and how different administrations believe the Title IX legislation should be interpreted and enforced. The law itself is a federal law that is not under any immediate sign of threat. Title IX has been in place for 45 years and has been solidified in the courts over that time. The guidance documents are guidelines only and are not legally binding in a traditional sense (although judges have cited them in opinions).  Secretary DeVos and President Trump may issue further guidance related to Title IX. These guidance documents and any procedures they may introduce or eradicate may be reviewed and altered again by subsequent administrations.

Education leaders and lawyers should pay careful attention to what action, and what inaction, Secretary DeVos and President Trump take on Title IX.  As much as an active role may change the landscape, there would be significant changes to how Title IX works on campuses with a less active Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education.  

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New Safety and Risk Resource for Student Affairs Leaders in Higher Ed and Independent Schools

Over the past several months, I have been working with some colleagues in higher education and K12 independent schools on the development of a new resource for safety and risk in education.  Together, we have created the Center for Student Affairs Policy and Law (CSAPAL).

A high-level overview of what CSAPAL does is:

The Center for Student Affairs Policy and Law, CSAPAL (pronounced C-S-A-“Pal”). CSAPAL fills the tremendous need for affordable training and resources to support educational institutions and their student affairs professionals on risk management, law, policy, student and campus safety, violence prevention and wellness issues.

We are a group of practitioners who are passionate about helping higher education and K12 educators and leaders by providing education, training, seminars, conferences, expert advice, and certifications in student affairs, safety, risk, conduct, and legal compliance, including Title IX.

Our programming and website is still under development but we have a lot of resources and capacity to help.  Check out our blog – https://www.csapal.org/blog/ – and let me know what you think.

From your perspective, what are the biggest risk/safety issues you are seeing in education?

Are you interested in getting involved?  Contact me on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/mcolpitts/) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/mcolpitts).

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