NIU to fortify Compliance Administration

New framework to be implemented

ComplianceAdministrationNIU’s Acting Executive Vice President of Finance & Facilities and Chief of Operations Steve Cunningham and Vice President and General Counsel Jerry D. Blakemore today announced the implementation of a planned restructuring of the university’s Office of Compliance Administration that will leverage existing personnel while adding critical specialized personnel to further enhance the university’s compliance oversight function.

“Public universities operate in a heavily regulated and increasingly complex environment. I endorsed this initiative several months ago because the compliance function must be an integral aspect of standard business practices and university operations, and increasing coordination with the Office of the General Counsel will fully establish this function as part of our central mission,” NIU President John G. Peters said.

“This reorganization allows us to structure Compliance Administration to take advantage of resources and combine expertise from across departments into one unit responsible for compliance oversight across the campus,” Cunningham said. “Adding additional personnel and resources to the existing core will be among the next steps in the process.”

Under the new organizational structure, Compliance Administration will jointly report to the vice president and general counsel and acting executive vice president of Finance & Facilities/chief of operations. The restructured Compliance Administration department will also assume responsibility for data security investigations and compliance of all electronic and print forms, including compliance with acceptable use and information security policies, breach notifications, and related e-records discovery, record preservation, and information requests. It does not include system security access and control aspects, which are integrated within the Information Technology Services (ITS) operation.

Jerry D. Blakemore

Jerry D. Blakemore

Adding these aspects to the current compliance department functions that include procurement, records administration, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, risk management, Title IX, affirmative action, ethics training, administrative investigations, and the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act will provide the university with access to existing staff expertise in these important areas and the opportunity to re-align expertise to maximize efficiency and enhance the effectiveness of NIU’s compliance programs.

“In the coming weeks and months, NIU will be announcing a number of initiatives to improve compliance functions, procedures, training and accountability,” Blakemore said. “Our goal is to improve on an already solid base and within 12 to 18 months become a national model for compliance administration.”

Blakemore, a national leader in the areas of university compliance and audit, is a member of the Board of Directors of National Association of College and University Attorneys and chairs the Advisory Committee on Compliance Initiatives. The advisory group is focused on educating the larger higher education community about the role, purpose, impact and operation of the ever-increasing importance of the compliance function on college and university campuses today.

Steve Cunningham

Steve Cunningham

In addition to serving as Acting Executive Vice President of Finance & Facilities & Chief of Operations, Cunningham represents the public university presidents and chancellors on such state level policy initiatives as the State Universities Retirement System, pension reform and finance; procurement; compliance with legislative mandates; and the State Universities Civil Service System. Cunningham co-chaired the NIU Vision 2020 Sustainability Committee and serves as the chairperson of the Illinois Procurement Higher Education Consortium (IPHEC). He also serves as administrative liaison to the NIU Board of Trustees on issues related to compliance, planning, personnel, procurement, and related policies.

The newly restructured Compliance Administration Department at NIU will allow the university to enhance its efforts to meet the increasing demands of regulation and compliance from federal and state agencies and accreditation organizations including:

  • Efficient reporting of compliance initiatives to the Board of Trustees, related state and federal agencies, accrediting organizations and other internal/external constituencies;
  • Fulfillment of enhanced employee training and communication requirements;
  • Capability for effective and timely administrative investigation of complaints;
  • A cost-effective integration of existing and new compliance responsibilities with pre-existing assignments;
  • Enhanced coordination with Departments of Internal Audit and Public Safety;
  • Coordination with more specialized university compliance functions including Research, Sponsored Projects, and Information Technology Services;
  • Reinforcement of Intercollegiate Athletics compliance protocols and the success of related programs;
  • Implementation of a benchmark Compliance and Ethics program as an integral function of university operations.
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