Risk Management at UAH
A modern-day university is exposed to a wide variety of risks, much like a business enterprise. These risks may include a variety of potential harms, such as financial injury, loss of opportunities, adverse governmental action, negative publicity, etc. Realistically, few activities are completely insulated from risk, and the relevant question is not whether risks are present but how much risk is tolerable in the context of the expected benefit from the activity. The assessment of risk and the development of appropriate responses define the role of risk management.
Unlike many institutions, UAH does not have an office of risk management. This function is carried out, to a limited extent, by the Office of Counsel (principally by Bob Rieder, University Counsel), in cooperation with the Office of Business Services. The primary role of the Office of Counsel has been to participate in the process of securing insurance as a means of mitigating risks of loss and liability for the institution and its employees. Decisions about the use of insurance (including self-insurance programs) are generally made by a group of officials from all three campuses operating through several University of Alabama System (UAS) committees. The majority of insurance programs at UAH are approved and purchased through this joint UAS group, though some policies are procured by this campus on its own.
Risk management also involves addressing the extent of risk in a proposed or ongoing program or action. The Office of Counsel is involved in this task as well, both in an “on request” and a self-initiated basis. The result of its review may be a recommendation not to proceed with the proposal, suggestions as to how to minimize risk, advice regarding the purchase of insurance, or other counsel. Another function of risk management is the monitoring of incidents, claims, and losses as a means of identifying patterns of conduct or areas of institutional activity that may be generating more than the anticipated number of claims. The effectiveness of proactive steps taken by the University to minimize risk can also be gauged in this way.
The work of other University offices touches this general function, including auditing, compliance, legal, environmental health and safety, emergency management, behavior/threat assessment, etc. Cooperation among the officials who are active in these areas is obviously a most important link to positive risk management outcomes for the campus.
Questions about specific insurance coverages, claims monitoring, or other risk management activities should be directed to the Bob Rieder or to the other attorneys in the Office of Counsel.