Risk Management in Auxiliary Enterprises

Keith Crawford and Mike Thorpe headshots
Discover how a risk manager in an auxiliary has made a difference at one university.                                                                                                                                                                                                        

The Auxiliary Landscape

Auxiliaries aren’t new to the higher education environment. After all, the professional trade association for auxiliaries, the National Association of College Auxiliary Services (NACAS), has been around for as long as URMIA. What is still fairly new, at least for one auxiliary, is the hiring of its first risk manager.

Auxiliaries/auxiliary enterprises are separate legal entities that operate to provide services to students, faculty, or staff on a college or university campus. These are self-supporting organizations that charge a fee for the use of goods and services. The services that an auxiliary supplies are supplemental to the educational mission of an institution of higher learning – services such as bookstores, campus housing, dining services, conferences, campus hotels, vending machines, student unions, and events on campus to name a few.

This separation between the university and the auxiliary necessitates good communication and understanding of roles. Handled well, the added risk manager within the auxiliary can provide peace of mind on both sides.

The Difference a Risk Manager in an Auxiliary Can Make

Associated Students (AS) of California State University, Chico hired its first dedicated risk manager, URMIA member Keith Crawford, just over a year ago and here’s how that risk manager role is making a difference.

Crawford started the position working closely with his auxiliary colleagues as well as campus partners such as Mike Thorpe, executive director, risk management, environmental health & safety, and property management at California State University, Chico. While Crawford was new to risk management, he was not new to the auxiliary organization having spent ten years working in programming and outdoor recreation roles as part of the AS. Crawford and Thorpe met frequently to help Crawford understand risk management and requirements the university had particularly for insurance and contracts.

Creating uniformity and consistency in its insurance policies and contracts was Crawford’s first project for AS. He ensured contracts were secured when needed and included the correct indemnification and appropriate language. He also could assess and obtain the types of insurance required for the various auxiliary functions.

But the insurance and contract responsibilities are just a part of his risk manager role. He has become the liaison with campus health and safety colleagues and has learned when an issue needs to involve those colleagues on health and safety issues that arise and when the auxiliary can handle situations on its own. Furthermore, Crawford has become the central point of contact for all health and safety issues involving the auxiliary so staff are clear who to report situations to and he can then decide when to involve his university colleagues.

Other Duties as Assigned

Having the risk manager position has also afforded AS the opportunity to evaluate its compliance and safety training and ensure that supervisors get the tools and training they need and to make sure the appropriate training flows down to front-line workers.

Crawford has also educated AS staff on “elevated levels of risk,” albeit, he admits, these are rather ambiguous definitions. If a special event is in the elevated level of risk category, staff engage Crawford in the review of the event to determine if additional risk mitigation steps need to be put into place.

It’s a Win-Win Arrangement at CSU, Chico

“Figuring out the way to say yes is one of my favorite parts of my job,” said Crawford. By having the risk manager position within the auxiliary, the AS has the ability to approve an activity that they might have previously denied because they didn’t have the resources to fully vet a new request. Having an additional risk manager “review” first, saves time and enhances the student experience, which is having even greater importance in student retention at the university.

The university is seeing the benefits as well. “I am extremely supportive of our auxiliary hiring its own risk manager,” said Thorpe. “The programs and activities that operate under our auxiliaries have grown in complexity and scale, and so has the legal and regulatory landscape they are subject to. Most campus risk managers don’t have the time or resources to fully assess the operations of their auxiliaries, so it is refreshing to have someone like Keith serve in that capacity - especially when so many of our programs intersect. When our programs do intersect, the operational responsibilities of campus and our auxiliaries were often not well-defined. Having someone like Keith to collaborate with not only helps to clarify responsibilities, but it also bolsters our overall efforts towards mitigating risk. I am hopeful we will see an increase in dedicated auxiliary risk managers in the near future.”

URMIA National Office


By URMIA National Office

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