COCAO's continuity, support, and technical expertise on higher education issues give it a competitive advantage over the other academic councils in the policy process, including the ability to define policy issues that require attention by the Board.
COCAO's activism on policy issues is viewed as a strength by the Board and its staff.
In October 1995, members of COCAO clearly believed that a system policy covering all forms of intellectual property was needed to address several circumstances.
According to one member of COCAO, "COCAO's interest in a broader Regents policy on intellectual property was prompted by two factors: copyright of software packages and ownership of distance education and mediated instruction" (cited in Bumstead, 1998).
Drawing a parallel with cost inflation in journal subscriptions, another member of COCAO commented directly to the Board, "You will see [that] our concern expressed here [is] ...
In the initial phase of the problem-definition process, COCAO identified three conditions that its members believed were potentially harmful to the universities and thereby established the significance of the policy problem: First, the lack of a copyright policy would not enable the universities to negotiate effectively for a share of royalties in the event that a "blockbuster" software package was created by their faculties.
In October 1995, COCAO established a committee to draft a policy for the Regents universities, asserting an important role of COCAO in the ownership of the policy problem.
Through the draft policy statement, COCAO articulated a comprehensive definition of an emerging policy problem.
Although COCAO's initial political entrepreneurship in defining course ownership as a policy issue went unchallenged, the negative reaction from faculty and student leaders to the recommendations in the draft statement from COCAO's systemwide committee was swift and forceful.