Author Archives: Justin M. Stern

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no wait, it’s the CLOUD!

cloud-computing_2To many in Higher Education, the first time you heard “it’s in the cloud”, you probably looked outside to see if your IT guy was making a weather joke; it is of course apparent to many now both in Higher Education and other industries that this is far from the reality, although how would you really even know (relax, that was a joke…probably). It is a new world we are living in when it comes to how we not only store information, but especially how we distribute it. Gone are the days of library card catalogs and in some cases even books, welcome to the time of ebooks, MOOCs, and complete online programs; and I am not just talking about University of Phoenix, nay, I am talking even the Ivy League. colleges-cloud-computing-infographic

First things first, what is the cloud? In case you have been buried under a rock for the last 5 years, or are not as much of an IT geek as I am (the most likely rationale), let’s go over a brief introduction to the cloud. At its core, the cloud can be described as the internet itself; I am just kidding, that is a very complex and even philosophical based way to look at the cloud. In all seriousness though, you can think of the cloud as an ATM (which by the way also works on the cloud). In this respect, an ATM can be viewed as a portal to your financial data and funds that are accessible on all ATMs; no matter the ATM the information is up to date and readily available wherever you can access an ATM. The cloud is the same in that your data is accessed through portals (phones, laptops, tablets, etc.) and is synced across all these different

So if you are like most people, the question of “how does affect me” has now just crossed your mind; I promise it affects you in more ways than you would think. Cloud storage has taken over the bulk storage operations in to what could be described by some as an overnight transition. Don’t think so, do you think this is an exaggeration? OK, let’s test this concept out. Ask yourself, do you own a smart phone that operates on either Apple IOS or Android? If you answered yes, than congrats, you are a cloud user; all that photo stream, contact syncing, even your Google/Apple ID information is in the cloud. So what does this really all mean? Well, most importantly it means that barring a server outage, as long as you have an internet connection you will have access to your cloud based information. Now I know what you are thinking, I already have access to my information, it’s called my hard drive. Well my response to this would be, so you take your hard drive everywhere? Most people would of course say no to this question, while in the same respect you CAN take the cloud everywhere because well, it’s already everywhere.
While the average person will/ does use the cloud regularly without giving it a second thought, students on college campuses are a little more involved in such interaction and they seem to “like” it; that’s right, that was a Facebook pun. With most campuses being either completely or at least mostly wireless it is fair to say that checking a students homework may be right under the total number of times that they are checking Facebook/ updating their status; all through the beauty of cloud data. While social media is an obvious byproduct of the cloud, something less obvious is the average student’s access to their own information; this includes not only their homework assignments but books, multimedia, and even their sensative information such as FERPA protected self identifying information. Gone are the days, for the most part, when students had to go to a records office and request a transcript; it’s all about ease of access through online services, because realistically, when was the last time you even used a fax machine?
Like most tech innovations however, the cloud is not all glitz and glamour; there are several issues associated with cloud storage that are cause for concern. Most notably is the nature of securing such data, especially such data that comes under privacy laws such as anything related to FERPA. With the rise of cloud data and ease of access to information that used to only be stored in locked cabinets in the basement of your university records office, there have arisen a whole new set of concerns and challenges to be combated; including security breach threats from the government. In an age where few people understand where their data actually is, and such data travels along the information superhighway, some critics argue that privacy (true privacy) is dead; see video Privacy (medical records) in the Digital Age. It is not just merely about the lack of privacy based on flawed security measures, but also about the very nature of where such cloud data is being stored and the concept of ownership; remember that possession is 9/10th of the law! In this respect you should now be wondering about who really owns that Kindle Ebook you bought; here’s a hint, you don’t own it, your just kinda borrowing it ( . The same question can be applied to most information stored via the cloud, which is exactly why I highly recommend that people ask, ask, and ask some more when it comes to such questions of ownership/ access to their cloud data.

Much of the privacy issues associated with cloud data is really from a lack of questions from the end users (you) and not from tech fault; yes, I did just put a good chunk of the blame on human error, because well, let’s face it, we make more mistakes than computers do. One such human based error is that of access to the actual server where the data is. You see, while the cloud means that the data is being stored digitally, at some point it has to physically be somewhere; this location is known as the server/ server farm. These locations on average are in very remote locations (other countries that are very cold) and are encased in tons of physical security; by physical security I am talking surveillance systems, access control (card, fingerprint, retina based “keys”), blast doors, etc. However like any security system, it is only as good as the following of the policies/ processes that are in place i.e. a bank vault only works if it’s locked. In the same respect, such security measures are only effective if those people with access ensure that they are not compromising such access; a perfect example of this is password sharing. You see, computers can be hacked (broken into) but that doesn’t mean that all levels of hacking present the same challenges. Hacking into a server (with a decent firewall) via the internet can be like trying to tunnel, you may be able to do it but you’ll most like have to go through hell to get there. On the flip slide, hacking into a server on-site (face to face) can be exponentially easier; which is the exact reason why most cloud servers are secured in physical enviornments that would leave some people to believe that location of the holy grail may be on one of the servers (hey, it could be).

So after all this, do you think your cloud data is safe from prying eyes if your incorporate good passwords and a cloud server that has impeccable security protocols?I hope you said no, because there is still one more entity that can access your information without your knowledge and permission, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s even legal (kind of). That’s right, to all those in the audience that recall the immediate post 9/11 era, I’m talking about the mighty Patriot Act. Now here’s some food for thought, if your cloud server is based outside of the U.S., does it still have to give up your data to Uncle Same? The answer to this question is 99.9% of the time, the cloud server can do nothing more than open its server room door and tell the U.S. government to have at it. That’s right, geographic location of you server has almost no effect of the government’s ability to access your data. This is based on the notion that “Most cloud providers, and certainly the market leaders, fall within the U.S. jurisdiction either because they are U.S. companies or conduct systematic business in the U.S.” (Wittacker, 2012). Now to many people, this access by the U.S. government means nothing because if the DOD really wants to see your pictures from grandma’s 80th birthday, they are more than welcome to; however such a privacy issue is in part merely to illustrate the point that in this digital world, privacy is more often than not just an illusion.

While the downsides of digital data and cloud based tech can be somewhat depressing, the positives FAR out way the negatives. Just think about it, you can access all of your data (family photos, books, movies, drawings from the 3rd grade (if scanned of course) instantly through your cloud. I don’t know about you, but all of that makes a few government prying eyes a small price to pay.


Wittacker, Z. (2012, December 4). Patriot Act can “obtain” data in Europe, researchers say. Retrieved from CBS News:

Restorative Justice: A Judicial Affairs Policy for the 21st Century Student Affairs Professional


Crime and Punishment, a book about the real nature of punishment and prisons, as well as their downfalls. It is interesting to note however that even though this book was written in 1866, much of the world’s justice and prison systems still reflect an outdated model; Higher Education in the U.S is sadly no different when it comes to looking into many of the Judicial Affairs departments; these are also known as Student Conduct Offices to those institutions that are that much further behind the times.
Within Judicial Affairs, much like in Criminal Justice there are two schools of thought in respect to how to adjudicate policy/ legal violations by students:
1) Punitive– which can be simply summed up as punishing the perpetrator in such a fashion that punishment is not worth the benefit of violation.
2) Educational/ Learning Outcome Based– based off the basic philosophy of Higher Education in which the institution stands to educate the student; in this respect the institution will sanction the student to punishment that is not meant to be negative, but rather is to educate them in the matter of their violation so that their new knowledge will cause them to not reoffend.
For the better part of history, these have been the go-to methodologies for both Higher Education and Criminal Justice, with the pendulum of justice swinging from one extreme to the other as public’s opinion sways with the times and issues.
Not to fear though, much as with the rest of Higher Education, Judicial Affairs is also on the path to evolution; University of Colorado at Boulder can be viewed as the fish to first walk on land in this respect as it can be referred to the main proponent of Restorative Justice in Higher Education. I know what you are thinking, what is Restorative Justice, and why does it sound like a bad Fox show? The simple and at the same time complex answer to this question is that Restorative Justice is a reworking of our entire way of thinking about how crime and policy violations really should be adjudicated in regards t redefining the injured party and its role; this paradigm shift mainly calls for the crime/ policy violation to be between the perpetrator and the community/ actual injured party and not just the state/ institution i.e. Restorative Justice makes the perpetrator answer to those whom they actually wronged in an effort to restore the damage they did.draft_lens2352736module13212460photo_1230507471restorative_justice_umbrella_1
Now to many people, such a concept may sound a little like the eye for an eye mentality, and in some ways they would be right; Restorative Justice calls for the perpetrator to on several different levels, make things right again between themselves and the injured party. This newer concept has just really began to tap into its true potential, with the beginnings of having student perpetrators understand that their negative actions not only effect their fellow students, but at times even the community at large. It is by having the student understand that they are a part of the community and for better or worse, it is what they make of it; of course, for us Student Affairs professionals, we make sure to instill the notion that we want it to be for the better.

#Facebook, #Twitter, and #Instagram Oh my (please don’t sue me Wizard of Oz or #GeorgeTakei)!


Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, and AlotAboutNothing (in case you didn’t catch it, that last one wasn’t real…or was it/is it by now); doesn’t it seem that there’s a new social media trend or app every time you turn around? From the sound of that opener, you’d guess this post was going to be a complaint piece about social media; your guess would be wrong. Quite the opposite, this post is more a celebration and general primer as to how social media interacts/ should interact with HigherEd; I’ll save social media marketing in HigherEd as well as some other fun social media topics I have planned for another time.

Social media has become something that is inescapable, and thanks to social media you cannot escape the things you do and the people you know; I’m talking to all of you who have had old or distant relatives find you on such sites and are now posting pictures/ posts involving you and embarrassing kid/baby photos. But the inescapable element of social media goes much further than just great grandma calling you pookie in front of your hundreds/ thousands of friends and followers; there is a new age-old saying, “what goes on the net, stays on the net…for everyone to see”. So the real question you have to be asking yourself, or rather your university is “how can I get the right message out to all of my stakeholders”; and that would be the million dollar question.

The first major step a HigherEd professional or institution must take to GET OUT THERE and claim your digital identity. Far too often have I seen fake Facebook, Twitter, etc. accounts claiming to be somebody; and without an official account to stand against them, these posers can do a lot of damage. But, enough with the scare tactics, you’re here to find out what you should be doing, and the answer is simple, read. That’s right, read, read, and read some more; social media trends are constantly changing so the best way to stay ahead of the game is to read the playbook. If I was to ask you what are the top 3 social media platforms out there today (just focusing on the U.S), hand down most of you might say Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; and you would be wrong. Depending who you talk to, they wouldn’t even put Instagram on the map anymore. The fact of the matter is that if you check out this highly informed article, you’d see that the #2 spot actually goes to a social media platform that I haven’t even mentioned yet; that’s right, that giant in the internet sky, Google +. Funny enough, this overtaking by Google + makes it look like Google +  did the proverbial tap on the shoulder and cut in line to Twitter when it was looking the other way.

So are you still asking yourself what you should be doing to make sure that you shine in the face off social media doubt? Good, then listen up. Everyone, and I do mean everyone (Institutions included) should do what they can to increase their SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and overall presence online. To do this you should be putting yourself out there on those “hot” social media platforms which means, if you cannot say yes to having every one of the below accounts, you need to finish/like/ comment on this post and then click on over and set one up!


  • Facebook– The mother of all social media; great for social and business relations, but just make sure to keep them separate if you have professional ethics/guidelines to adhere to (oh yes, there will be a post all about these fun do’s and don’ts)
  • Google +– This new kid on the block comes with the backing of arguably the most powerful and recognizable search engine in the known galaxy. At the rate this platform is growing, it would pay to get in on it now so that you have some roots for when it decides to go toe to toe with Facebook/ other competitors (and this day of reckoning is upon us).
  • Twitter­- For how pointless some people may claim Twitter is, it is far more powerful/ useful than it may even know right now. Thanks to Twitters character limitations/ lack of fancy picture posts, its reads very much like a news ticker; the addition of #hashtags makes Twitter a viable resource for pulling in parties that may be interested in topics you are tweeting about.
  • LinkedIn– For many of us (myself included) this has become the “professional” version of Facebook; in the way that LinkedIn is really aimed at business connections, business trends/news, and of course getting you a job.

For us in Student Affairs/ HigherEd, it is all the more important to make sure that we are on the ball with these trends as we serve those who are most affected by them; the students. As such, wouldn’t it be fair to say that we would all benefit from being able to engage with our students and even our other stakeholders (donors included) on the new playing field? I know this has been a lot to digest, but trust me, you’ll thank me someday; you can send those thanks via my Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (or at least by the end of this article, you should have an account to do so)!


The Good, the Bad, and Student Affairs

SAI know from my own education that if I hadn’t encountered two or three individuals that spent extra time with me, I’m sure I would have been in jail.” – Steve Jobs

Well, when I said that the 2nd post would be far away, I wasn’t kidding; do you like how by posting this now after saying a 2nd post was coming soon I also established some credibility/ trust with you? So, while I know that almost everyone is a Student Affairs expert, let’s just humor me and placate those who may not be aware of what this field is; who knows, maybe we’ll all learn something.

I have been working in Student Affairs for almost 5 years, and yes it has all been for the glamour, fame, and riches; in case you didn’t catch it, this is that moment we all wish sarcasm could truly transfer to the written word. In all seriousness, such rewards are far and few between in the realm of Higher Education and Student Affairs. The reality is that most of us get into this business for the same reason teachers and social workers get into their own, because we love to help and make a difference. I know, from the sound of that, we come across as those people you see trying to raise funds to feed disenfranchised children. On that note I feel it my responsibility, for the sake of all Student Affairs professionals to clear the air that in fact we are here to serve the children; the children being your 18 and older children who have been working on/striving towards that pie in the sky dream, a college degree.

Now don’t think I have sold out on you just yet, but let’s examine what Student Affairs is from a business aspect. Imagine you are an investor and you want to invest in the future of a college student, a Student Affairs professional is who you want/ need on your team to “maximize” your investment; in this sense, Student Affairs professionals are those guys who spend their days and nights pondering “how can we improve our higher education system in every aspect”? In this regard Student Affairs are much like the guys who were first enlisted to put a man on the moon; people may have laughed at them at the time, but history proved that they weren’t just shooting for the moon (you know you love the puns).

So in case you haven’t yet seen the picture in this blog post illustrating the many facets of the Student Affairs arena, take a look; you may be surprised to see what fun/ critical areas of operation fall under this field. So no next time you’re out on the street and you see a guy typing on his phone while mumbling something about student housing assignments, write ups, financial aid, or pretty much anything else that keeps U.S. Higher Ed in business, put your hand on their shoulder (some warning to the person may be advised to avoid legal/martial arts response) and tell them “it’s all going to be okay…summer is just around the corner”.