Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why does the Berkeley campus have an international group travel policy?
A. Whenever travel activity takes place on behalf of the University, we have a moral and institutional responsibility to alert the traveler to the risks entailed in that travel, to mitigate those risks, and to ameliorate them when they cannot be eliminated. Since international travel generally involves greater risk to the health and safety of the traveler than domestic travel an international travel policy has been adopted by the campus. Its purpose is to provide structure and appropriate guidance to travelers and to those who sponsor and organize the University’s travel activity.
The great deal of foreign travel engaged in by members of the Berkeley community is of great value to research, teaching, and service. It also represents extraordinary diversity in travel experiences with regard to areas visited and the type of activity in which the travelers are engaged. Hence our policy has been designed to avoid elaborate rules and procedures that might discourage or stultify foreign travel by subjecting it to an overly centralized regime of standardization, mandated requirements, and bureaucratic control. The policy allows for flexibility, nimbleness, and spontaneity in planning for and conducting foreign travel, while responsibly recognizing, mitigating, and ameliorating the risks involved in much of the international travel engaged in by members of the campus community.
Q. What is International Group Travel?
A. The campus’ International Group Travel Policy applies to all UC Berkeley sponsored and organized activities that take place outside the United States. Sponsored and organized means any group activity that is funded or partially funded and/or supervised by the University. Programs, courses, and other activities with a designated faculty sponsor/supervisor fit this definition of sponsored and organized. Likewise, a summer service-learning project organized as a DeCal class, although not funded by the campus, is considered sponsored and organized because the activity has a faculty sponsor.
The travel of a graduate student conducting dissertation field research abroad would in most circumstances not be subject to this policy, whatever its funding source, because the student is engaged in individual travel, not participating in a group activity. The same would hold for a faculty member participating in an international conference, or a staff member attending a meeting abroad on UC Berkeley business. In contrast, a group of graduate or undergraduate students participating in an archeological excavation or a study tour that is part of a UC Berkeley program would be subject to the campus International Group Travel Policy.
Q. Who needs to consult this policy?
A. • UC Berkeley faculty or staff members who organize or supervise international group travel activities.
• Deans of colleges and schools, department chairs, research center/institute directors whose campus unit is sponsoring and/or funding international group travel activities.
Q. I am a UC Berkeley faculty or staff member. How do I obtain approval for the international group travel I organize or supervise?
A. Formal approval is required for all UCB-sponsored and organized international group travel activities prior to commencing travel.
To obtain approval for the proposed international travel activity the UC Berkeley faculty or staff member who is organizing or supervising the travel activities submits to the head of the relevant UC Berkeley sponsoring unit (i.e. school or college, academic department, research institute, center or program) a risk assessment and mitigation plan. This plan communicates to prospective travelers the risks associated with the particular international activity to be undertaken, and how to mitigate the said risks.
The head of the relevant UC Berkeley sponsoring unit reviews the materials, once he/she grants approval, he/she submits a brief notification to the International Group Travel Coordinator. The notification should contain
- the destination and time period of the travel activity;
- the name and contact information of the group leader/”responsible individual;”
- the name and contact information of the “on-site leader,” if different than the group leader.
If travel is to a destination that is on the State Department Travel Warning List the faculty or staff member organizing the group travel activity submits the required documentation directly to the International Group Travel Coordinator to obtain approval from the International Group Travel Committee.
Q. I am a Department Chair, Director of a Research Center, Institute of Program, or the Dean of a UC Berkeley School or College. My campus unit is sponsoring an international group travel activity. What are my responsibilities?
A. Campus approval of international group travel activities is delegated to the heads of the units within which the activities will occur (e.g., Deans of colleges and schools, department chairs, directors of research centers, institutes, and programs such as Summer Sessions), except when proposed travel is to countries for which the US Department of State has issued a Travel Warning.
In approving an international travel activity, the unit head is expected to vet the program with respect to the following four criteria:
- The proposed international travel activity has a UC Berkeley sponsoring unit (i.e. a school or college, academic department, a research institute, center or program).
- The activity has a named UC Berkeley employee who will be the “responsible individual” or supervisor of the international travel activity.
- Prior to departure, the travel activity supervisor has develop a risk assessment and mitigation plan to communicate to prospective travelers the risks associated with the particular international activity to be undertaken, and to mitigate the said risks.
- The risk assessment and mitigation plan shall include planning for a pre-departure orientation that will incorporate a discussion of potential health and security risks, the measures to be taken to avoid them, and the steps that need to be taken should serious problems arise.
- An emergency communications and procedures plan should be an explicit component of the travel risk assessment and mitigation plan.
- In those instances when the activity supervisor will not be “on- site” or accompanying the travelers, the risk assessment and mitigation plan must include a section on how the travel activity will be supervised from afar, and should in most cases include the naming of an “on-site leader.”
At the time of approval, the unit head should send a notification via email or campus mail to the International Group Travel Coordinator. The notification shall contain the destination and time period of the travel activity; the name and contact information of the supervisor/”responsible individual;” and, the name and contact information of the “on-site leader,” if different than the supervisor. The notification has to be received by the International Group Travel Coordinator at least two days before arrival in the travel destination.
Q. How do I develop a “Risk Assessment and Mitigation Plan?”
A. The risk assessment and mitigation plan should include planning for a pre-departure orientation that will incorporate a discussion of potential health and security risks, the measures to be taken to avoid them, and the steps that need to be taken should serious problems arise. An emergency communications and procedures plan should be an explicit component of the travel risk assessment and mitigation plan.
As you prepare to develop the plan you should
- Discuss with all participants the potential travel risks and crises that could occur in your travel destination after reviewing the State Department country information sheets and security issues, travel warnings, and advice (travel.state.gov).
- Agree with all participants on an emergency communications plan, consider establishing a “buddy system.”
- Encourage all participants to enroll in the UC Travel Insurance, http://www.uctrips-insurance.org/.
- Obtain the signatures of all participants on the UC Berkeley Waiver of Liability Form. Please note that participants under 18, need to obtain signatures from their parents or legal guardians.
- Review campus guidelines on emergencies and communications with family members.
- Summarize the potential travel risks and crises that could occur in your proposed travel area and your plans for mitigating them, including your emergency communications plan in a brief statement.
Q. What if a group plans to travel to a country on the State Department Travel Warning List?
A. When travel is to be undertaken to countries for which the U.S. Department of State has issued a Travel Warning, special consideration must be given and precautions taken before such travel is approved. Therefore, a campus standing committee, the International Travel Committee has been established to review proposals for travel to countries on the State Department’s Travel Warning list. Approval of travel to these high-risk areas rests with the International Group Travel Committee, not with the unit head.
Individuals or units seeking to sponsor travel to countries on the State Department’s Travel Warning list shall provide the International Group Travel Committee with a proposal detailing the benefits of the proposed travel, the factors that mitigate the risks attendant to the proposed travel, and the reasons the proposed travel should be considered sufficiently safe in light of the existing Travel Warning.
The Committee, in considering proposals and deciding on approvals, weighs a variety of factors. Key questions include: How significant is the travel in relationship to the University’s research, teaching, and service missions? Who will be traveling: graduate students, undergraduates? What type of in-country activity will the travelers engage in? How relevant are the concerns raised in the Travel Warning to the particular locale in which the travelers will reside and the specific activity in which they will be engaged?
Q. What is the International Group Travel Committee?
A. The International Group Travel Committee is appointed by the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, and is composed of faculty and administrators with extensive international travel experience, and, as far as is possible, should include individuals who have led travel groups and who have had experience in countries on the Travel Warning list. Where it lacks expertise, the Committee will consult with individuals outside the Committee who do possess expertise about and experience in the country of the proposed travel activity. The Committee will also consult with other external sources of information, such as the Center for Disease Control advisories, the detailed “Country Specific Information” compiled by the State Department on every country in the world, and the country reports available through the University of California’s travel insurance carrier.