November 1, 2017

Department of Education Cyber Advisory
Earlier this month, the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office, a part of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), released an alert on a new type of cyber extortion/threat. "Schools have long been targets for cyber thieves and criminals. We are writing to let you know of a new threat, where the criminals are seeking to extort money from school districts and other educational institutions on the threat of releasing sensitive data from student records. In some cases, this has included threats of violence, shaming, or bullying the children unless payment is received." The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating recent, similar cyber attacks in Montana and Iowa. While this particular threat has so far been directed at K-12 schools, institutions of higher education (IHEs) should be aware of it, consider taking proactive steps to prevent such threats, and know that they are required to notify the FSA office of data breaches via  email pursuant to the GLBA Act, Title IV obligations, and SAIG agreements. More information on these legal obligations can be found in the July 2016 Dear Colleague Letter on protecting student information.
In the alert, ED outlines ways in which information technology staff can work to ensure their organizations are protected:
  • Conduct security audits to identify weaknesses and update/patch vulnerable systems
  • Ensure proper audit logs are created and reviewed routinely for suspicious activity
  • Train staff and students on data security best practices and phishing/social engineering awareness
  • Review all sensitive data to verify that outside access is appropriately limited
Additional information and proactive tools for IHEs and organizations are available through the following:  
  • ED's Student Privacy 101 website: Aims to assist stakeholders in protecting the privacy of students by providing official guidance on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), technical best practices, and answers to frequently asked questions. There is a special section for postsecondary school officials that may be helpful in responding to and recovering from cyber attacks.
  • Free ESET Cybersecurity Awareness Training: Provides education for employees with online, on-demand training that includes a threats overview, password policies, web and email protection, and preventive measures. 
  • FSA Cybersecurity Compliance web page: Offers information and resources on data security and privacy mandatory requirements, tools to assist in cybersecurity compliance, ED references and guidelines for cybersecurity, and draft language for the upcoming FY18 audits to ensure schools are securing student information.

Register now!
Legalization of Marijuana: Challenges Facing College Campuses
The legalization of cannabis is changing the landscape of college campuses across the nation. In November, we are pleased to welcome Ryan Snow, M.Ed., a police officer for the  University of Illinois Police Department and founder and lead instructor with  Prevention Leaders, Inc. Ryan will present a free webinar, Legalization of Marijuana: Challenges Facing College Campuses, on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 2:00PM ET.  
Ryan will explore issues surrounding prevention, education, and enforcement that are troubling campus administrations and police departments across the nation, and will explain data that has come out of states where cannabis has been legalized. The presentation will examine trends, including why they exist and some of the dangers that come with different forms of cannabis. Participants will leave understanding why changes in cannabis laws are impacting their campuses, even if they are in a state that hasn't passed a form of legalized cannabis. They will also have greater knowledge about cannabis and what they can do to help stop issues before they hit their campus.
This webinar is appropriate for campus administrators, residential life staff, student conduct and affairs, and campus safety or police. Those new to the field, as well as more experienced professionals, will benefit from the presented material.  Register today!

Campus Safety: Lessons Learned from Richard Spencer's UF Event
Institutions of higher education (IHEs) were on high alert following the Charlottesville tragedy this August when white supremacists marched on the University of Virginia (UVA) and made their way into the city, where protests resulted in the death of 32-year old Heather Heyer. Requests by Richard Spencer, a prominent figure in the right-wing fringe movement, to hold a speaking event were denied by IHEs, including Michigan State University and the University of Florida (UF). IHEs cited serious public safety concerns for their campus communities as grounds for denial. Michigan State University said, "this decision was made due to significant concerns about public safety in the wake of the tragic violence in Charlottesville last weekend. While we remain firm in our commitment to freedom of expression, our first obligation is to the safety and security of our students and our community."
UF decided to allow Spencer to rent space on campus for an event on October 19, stating, "although UF leadership has denounced Spencer's white supremacist rhetoric, the University, as a state entity, must allow the free expression of all viewpoints." UF President Kent Fuchs had serious concerns about a Charlottesville repeat but, due to careful planning by UF and a substantial amount of funding allocated for additional safety measures, only minor incidents ensued.
A recent article in Inside Higher Ed highlighted nine lessons learned from the actions taken by UF to prepare for Spencer's event, knowing that he, and other controversial speakers, will continue to approach IHEs for speaking opportunities on their campuses.
  1. Be Prepared: In incidents at Berkeley and UVA, it became evident that previous protocols for protest weren't sufficient for this type of event. "In addition to behind-the-scenes planning, the University of Florida clearly communicated everything to the public, creating a question-and-answer webpage that meticulously addressed every aspect of the event - who Richard Spencer was and why he would be allowed to speak, the university's views on his message and everything else down to road and bus stop closures."
  2. First Amendment: Almost always, a public IHE cannot stop controversial individuals from speaking on campus without violating their First Amendment rights. However, an IHE does not have to accommodate the date and time requested. "Certain policies restricting speech can pass legal muster if they're content neutral - such as one that requires speakers be invited by either a student group or faculty member."
  3. Check Your Rules: Some IHEs' guidelines on outside speakers may not be ideal for controversial speakers like Spencer. Open-door policies at IHEs may not necessarily have been problematic before, but should be reviewed.
  4. Keeping Students Away: Both UF and UVA tried to discourage students from attending, but many believe that standing on the sidelines isn't enough and they want to confront views "they find abhorrent." 
  5. Listen to and Involve Your Students: Communication with students was a key component for the administration. Fuchs and his team communicated with students about its decision, and student anger was directed at Spencer rather than the administration. A unifying hashtag was created, #TogetherUF, that brought all members of the university together with a student-created digital campaign. It consists of a series of videos and statements about race relations on campus.
  6. Crowd Control: Creating a physical separation of Spencer's supporters from protesters was identified as a key component of safety. This separation of parties began before the event and continued through the time participants returned to their vehicles, when violence was most noted to occur. This strategy proved very successful at UF.
  7. Safety at a Cost: UF safety and security cost estimates for Spencer's event are currently at $600,000. Administrators are challenged with determining who absorbs these costs.
  8. University Administrators Need to Speak Out: IHE leaders should speak out repeatedly and take a visible stand against the message of white supremacists. If a president, provost, or other high-level administrator is misquoted, the message must be corrected immediately, as President Fuchs did when a reporter quoted Spencer as saying Fuchs "stood behind" him. "While college presidents do have a First Amendment obligation to host these speakers, their constitutional rights don't vanish. They can say exactly how they feel, which can in a sense, reassure the campus."
  9. Controversial Speakers Want a Riled-Up Crowd: When protestors try to silence a speaker with heckling or other forms of protest, a speaker may claim their First Amendment rights are being violated. 
For additional reading on white supremacists on campuses, please see this article from The Chronicle.

Professional Development Opportunities
Title: A Dangerous Defense: "Blackout" in Alcohol Facilitated, Non-Stranger Sexual Assault Cases
Organization: End Violence Against Women International
Date: November 7, 2017 at 3:30PM ET
Location: Online
Fee: Free
Title: Community Preparedness For Cyber Incidents (MGT384)
Organization: Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service
Dates: December 4-5, 2017
Location: Oriskany, NY
Fee: Free
Title: 2017 NASPA Multicultural Institute: Advancing Equity and Inclusive Practice
Organization: NASPA
Dates: December 10-12, 2017
Location: New Orleans, LA
Fee: Registration fee

For additional trainings and events, access our searchable online calendar.

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Weekly Snapshot articles in our easily searchable directory, which is updated monthly.

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This project was supported by Grant No. 2013-MU-BX-K011 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the US Department of Justice.