Academic Continuity

Continuity Planning 101

Regardless of size and location, Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) have an obligation to protect and provide for students, faculty, staff, and visitors.   These commitments include the ability to provide the services required of them and to carry out functions critical to the mission and goals of the institution even in the aftermath of any disruptive event. Considerable advance planning and conscientious adherence to generally recognized procedures for responding to potential short or long term interruptions (i.e. natural or man-made events) should allow the learning enterprise to continue to fulfill its fundamental mission.  Failure to have an adequate plan that ensures the continuation of critical operations and services could lead to financial loss, interruptions of academic classes, failure of research projects (existing and future), damage to the brand name and image, and delays in completing other mission critical activities. Exposures to risks that may interrupt normal operations cannot be ignored.  

Fortunately, there are measures that can be taken to increase campus resiliency and preparedness. IHEs can improve their readiness abilities to effectively prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate/prevent against an impeding or existing threat or disruptive event, by investing in a proactive risk management maturity process known as “Continuity Planning.”  One of the primary guiding principles of the continuity management process is the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of risks that could have an adverse effect on the operations and viability of the learning enterprise. With this methodology, the objective is to identify and address critical areas within the enterprise (the “Departments”) that are at risk of experiencing interruptions during an incident.  Continuity of operation plans are a collection of essential processes, procedures, functions, information, and assets within each department that are developed, tested, and held in readiness for use in the event of a major disruption to operations.   

Continuity Planning is a well researched and broadly practiced concept in business enterprises.  “Academic Continuity Planning” extends this concept to the education system – Teaching, Research, Public Service, etc.   It is a proactive paradigm in contrast to the reactive model of disaster recovery.  With this approach, the focus is on integrating resources, processes, actions, and information into the operational design of higher education. There is great value in an active, focused, and thoughtful approach to assessing risks, analyzing impacts, and sustaining critical operations.  In the long-term it can be more effective and less costly. This is a relatively new paradigm which is being developed and applied to the task of planning for and responding to high consequence events in an academic arena. Enhancing your ability to carry on with critical operations in the aftermath of a disruptive event is achievable.

Academic Continuity Planning at UIC

uicbannerThe University of Illinois at Chicago Continuity of Operations (COOP) program establishes priorities and procedures to maintain continuity of its critical academic, student and business operations; and the ability to continue performing its mission – Teaching, Research, Service, Patient Care and Economic Development – following an emergency event.  The goal is to provide effective continuity management and recovery strategies that will help sustain, restore, and recover academic and business operations at the Chicago campus. 

The campus and departmental plans establish policy and guidance to ensure the execution of the critical functions for UIC in the event an emergency at the Chicago campus or in the surrounding communities threatens or incapacitates operations and/or requires the relocation of selected students, faculty, staff, patients, and functions.

All of the plans comply with applicable internal University of Illinois policy, Illinois Compiled Statutes, and the Campus Security Enhancement Act of 2008, and supports recommendations provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 

UIC has an obligation to students, their families, faculty, staff, patients, and the communities they serve to continue to operate in a prudent and efficient manner even in the circumstance of an impending or existing threat or actual emergency. UIC will make every effort to continue operations in the event its facilities, equipment, staff, vital records, or information technology is unavailable to support “business as usual” operations.

Purpose

The campus and departmental continuity plans will address internal efforts and procedures that are needed to ensure that activities, processes, and functions remain active and available, without significantly jeopardizing the mission of the campus. The following key challenges to continuity response and recovery operations will also be addressed:

  • Delineation of mission critical functions
  • Specification of leadership succession
  • Identification of emergency delegation of authority
  • Safeguarding of vital student and Campus operation records
  • Identification of alternative modes of communications
  • Identification of alternative staffing allocations
  • Identification of alternative recovery sites
  • Validation of the capabilities through regular testing, training and exercises

The goal for this campus plan is to give the UIC community the confidence and ability to maintain a high standard of resiliency and preparedness; improve its ability to maintain critical academic and business functions and resources; and ensure the overall continuity of operation of the Chicago campus.

Assumptions

The continuity plans should be maintained based on the following assumptions:

  • Assumes an ‘all-hazards’ approach. (i.e. the plans do not specifically address all possible incident situations, flood, earthquake, terrorist attack, etc. Rather assumes the worst-case scenario and should be adapted for less catastrophic incidents.)
  • Plans are scalable and flexible.
  • Plans may be utilized by the various recovery teams to respond to an incident impacting UIC.
  • All vital records, data, and files required to implement recovery of CFs are backed up on a regular basis and stored off-site.
  • The Campus Incident Command System will be available as required.
  • The primary or alternate team members are available to respond to the incident 24/7.
  • Staff levels may be significantly reduced.
  • Alternate academic surge sites will be made available to the Campus at the time of need.
  • Adequate training is given in the use of the plans that all staff are made aware of its existence and their roles, if appropriate, within the plan.
  • Plans are tested and reviewed on a regular basis.
  • The Academic Computing and Communications Center (ACCC) and Administrative Information Technology Services (AITS) disaster recovery plans are maintained with regard to Testing, Training, and Exercising.