Academic and Co-curricular Travel and Field Trips

An important part of student learning at Trinity includes field experience in off-campus settings in the Washington area, around the country, and internationally. Such experience comes in a wide range of activities, from internships to competitive sports to visits to museums or places of environmental interest to major trips for study around the world. The purpose of this statement is to provide a framework for faculty, staff and students who are engaged in official Trinity activities that involve travel anywhere off-campus.

No policy statement can cover all imaginable circumstances, and no rule can substitute for common sense and an obvious disposition to act responsibly and safely. The highest priority for Trinity is the safety and security of students and all personnel, and provision of an effective learning environment. Trinity cannot guarantee a completely risk-free environment at all times, and some educational activities entail reasonable risks in order to achieve the learning result. However, should any activity raise concerns about the ability of Trinity or its agents to conduct the experience within reasonable bounds of safety and security, then the activity should not occur and an alternative learning experience should occur.

The president or her designee reserves the right to cancel any activity or to direct substitution of a different activity as circumstances may indicate that reasonable precautions cannot meet reasonable safety standards.

1. Transportation in General

As a general matter, employees of Trinity may not transport students in personal vehicles. A very few individuals have exemptions to this policy in emergencies, but those exemptions are rare and limited to clear emergency situations. Personnel need to know that Trinity’s insurance will not pay for any property damage, injury or other claims arising from the unauthorized transportation of students in personal vehicles.

Trinity maintains no vehicles for transportation purposes.  The Campus Shuttle is operated by a professional contractor.  When academic or co-curricular programs need transportation to a site, Trinity requires hiring professional transportation or using public transit.

2. Local Travel for Students

Trinity is not responsible for providing transportation for students for internships, jobs, cultural/educational events and volunteer service activities. Students are responsible for making their own local travel arrangements, and students are expected to assume the risk associated with local travel to internships, jobs, volunteer service activities and cultural/educational events.  From time to time, for a large group event off-campus, Trinity will hire a professional transportation service.

3. Faculty and Staff Travel

Faculty and staff who travel for approved business purposes are covered under Trinity’s general insurance policy, but the use of personal vehicles for any such travel needs prior approval from the appropriate supervisor. Use of personal vehicles for business travel is generally not covered by Trinity’s insurance policy, and individual staff and faculty assume the risk for any damage or injuries that arise when using personal vehicles as part of their work for Trinity.

Per #1 above, in no case may a personal vehicle be used to transport students.

The financial dimensions of travel policies for faculty and staff and related approvals are covered in separate policy statements.

4. Local Field Trips

Trinity encourages faculty and students to take full advantage of the rich learning resources of the Washington region, as well as opportunities around the country.

“Field Trips” in this section means a group activity with a faculty or staff leader. This does not include internships, jobs or other activities addressed in #2 above in which the student acts independently of a group assignment.

Common sense rules apply to planning local field trips to museums, Congress, the White House, federal agencies, and the wide range of other venues available in the Washington area. Often, for local activities, instructors will expect the students to get to the location on their own, and this is an acceptable practice. Students are adults, and expected to exercise reasonable adult behavior in traveling through the region; faculty should remind students that traveling in pairs, at least, is preferred. Instructors should be clear about the location of destinations, times to meet, contact information if a student gets delayed and has to catch up with the group. If the field trip is in a location that poses known safety problems, then extra care must be taken in planning the travel to the location, and organized travel is preferable. Travel at night requires greater precaution.

5. Domestic Overnight Travel

If the activity requires students to travel with faculty or other staff on overnight travel, a more formal procedure exists to register and receive approval for the trip, see below. The leader of the trip takes on additional responsibility to ensure appropriate transportation, accommodations and meals for the students. All plans for accommodations should be made in advance; no trip can be approved that does not have prior reservations for appropriate hotel or motel rooms.

Where field trips require overnight accommodations, certain additional requirements apply:

  1. two professionals should normally travel with the group, at least one of whom must be female;
  2. in no case may employees sleep in the same room as students, and males may not be present in the rooms of females, and vice versa;
  3. no other persons may accompany the trip in the same vehicles, nor may other persons sleep in the same rooms as students or staff; (e.g., friends or relatives of students or staff)
  4. in extraordinary circumstances, exceptions for spouses or parents may be appropriate depending upon the length and purpose of the trip; such exceptions must be specifically approved in writing by the president or her designee;
  5. students and staff on approved travel are expected to comport themselves according to the norms of Trinity, and behavioral misconduct on field trips may result in disciplinary action.

Regarding meals, the trip leader should make every effort to ensure that the meals on the trip are healthy and nutritious, respectful of student dietary needs. Fast food, if at all, should be infrequent.

Payments for trip costs: trip leaders should meet with the vice president for financial affairs to discuss the best way to pay for costs associated with the trip. If the trip involves collecting money from students, the vice president or her designee will assist the trip leader in establishing the best process for collecting the money. Purchase orders are required for expenses, and the use of college credit cards should be reviewed as well.

6. International Travel

All of the points included in #5 above apply to international trips, with the additional guidelines below.

International travel with student groups requires significant planning and extra attention to safety and security precautions.  All trips abroad require prior approval by the provost.  Following are the specific guidelines for trips abroad:

a) Destination:
Before any plans for a group trip are initiated, the trip planner should ascertain the status of the proposed destination on the State Department advisory list, and then the trip planner should write a memorandum to the provost describing the nature of the trip and the destination, the learning goals, the likely participants, the costs, the status of the destination on the State Department list, and any other relevant considerations; the trip planner should not spend time on additional arrangements until he or she receives specific preliminary approval in response to this memo;
b) Travel Arrangements, Getting There and While There:
Trinity will ask for details about travel arrangements, both to get to the location, and while at the location. Trinity will ask for the credentials of transportation providers, and in all cases trip planners should deal with credible, established providers;
c) Hotel Arrangements:
Specifics about hotel accommodations and meal plans are also important, and Trinity may ask the trip planner to provide hotel reviews and ratings; the same requirements for overnight accommodations apply as are spelled out in the domestic travel section;
d) Trip Activities:
Whether or not a trip entails award of academic credit (which will have specific requirements specified in a separate memo from the academic vice president), Trinity expects the trip leader to provide a proposed schedule of activities reasonably covering each day; Trinity is not in the travel and leisure business, so Trinity expects international travel to be structured in a way that promotes learning for most of the time spent on the trip; proposed trips that have vague activities or primarily leisure activities will not be approved;
e) Costs:
Trinity will evaluate the costs in relation to the benefits of the trip; trip leaders should also know that, as a general rule, Trinity will not pay for the travel of the trip leader for an international program unless covered by a grant, so the trip leader needs to be prepared to pay his or her own expenses as well; Trinity will also inquire into any arrangement that the trip leader may make with a tour provider to pay the trip leader’s expenses in exchange for the group business; while such arrangements are not prohibited, they must be disclosed as a matter of appropriate business practice;
f) Supervision:
Trinity will also evaluate the overall supervision plan for the trip, including the number and qualifications of the faculty and staff accompanying the group, the nature of the activities in relation to the supervisory capacity of the staff, and the overall plan to ensure the safety and well being of the students on the trip.

Trinity reserves the right to refuse approval for an international group trip for any reason, and will be inclined to refuse approval for travel to any country or location that poses a significant threat to Americans.

7. Appropriateness of Field Activities

Students should never be put in a situation in which they do not have the appropriate training or skills to execute an activity that entails significant risk. For example, students who cannot swim should not be expected to take canoe trips with an environmental science class. A student should not be expected to hike along a dangerous ridge, climb a wall, or participate in a ropes exercise without adequate training and preparation.

If a trip requires a physical activity that might be unusually challenging for some students, students need to know that ahead of time and have the opportunity to opt out. Or, the trip leader should provide an alternative activity. In no case may a student be forced to participate in a field activity that poses a danger that she feels she cannot negotiate. Similarly, students with disabilities must always be permitted to participate in field trips, and trips must be designed in ways that reasonably accommodate their needs.

On occasion, students may refuse to travel to a particular destination or to engage in a particular activity because of a public safety threat. Faculty and staff may take reasonable steps to accommodate student concerns. At the same time, students may not unreasonably use safety concerns to avoid assignments. For example, a student teacher may not completely opt out of student teaching in an urban school, but she should discuss her concerns with her supervisor and work through a solution that completes the requirement while also lessening her concerns.

8. Procedures to Register Trips

Faculty and staff who are planning activities for student groups that entail travel need to follow the following procedures:

  1. For one-day field trips in the Washington area:

    1. Academic field trips conducted by faculty members: prior approval of a local field trip that does not require overnight accommodations is not necessary, but as a matter of good practice the faculty member responsible should send a brief message to the dean of the respective school, copy to the provost, simply stating the nature of the trip, destination and number of students involved, and any specifics that may make the trip unusual. The dean or provost may inquire into any activities that do not meet Trinity’s norms for adequate preparation, academic substance, or reasonableness of plans for safety on the trip.
    2. Co-curricular trips: prior approval normally is not required, but the staff trip leader should send a message to the vice president for student affairs and dean of students describing the trip in the same way as faculty would describe an academic trip, see above.
  2. For field trips outside of the Washington area or any overnight trips:Prior approval is required whether the trip is academic or co-curricular, domestic or international. Athletics may submit an entire season’s plan in advance. The following trip planning information is required:
    1. Name of the trip leaders
    2. Identity and number of students participating in the trip
    3. Purpose of the trip
    4. Destination
    5. Duration
    6. Trip Activities
    7. Mode of Transportation to the destination, including carrier name
    8. Transportation during the stay at the destination, including carrier
    9. Plan and place for Overnight accommodations, including hotel names
    10. Meal Plans
    11. Cost to students
    12. Description of any signification issues about the trip
    13. For international travel, State Department information on the location

As indicated above, for international trips a preliminary memo to the provost is required to approve the destination and academic plan.

Once the field trip plan is approved, the trip planner may proceed.

Finally, before departing on the trip, the trip leader must prepare a briefing packet for the vice president and dean that includes:

  1. a list of the names of all students on the trip, and all personnel;
  2. a complete itinerary including all telephone numbers, hotels, names of transportation providers.

The trip leader should carry with her or him the emergency telephone contact list for Trinity. Should any emergencies arise in the course of a trip, the trip leader is responsible for contacting the president, vice president or dean immediately to describe the emergency and to discuss plans to address the problem.

The president or her designee may choose to end any trip immediately; to send personnel to the location for assistance; to contact local authorities in the location of the group; or otherwise take action to protect the safety and interests of students, staff and Trinity.