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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 17, 2005 | Vol. 35 No. 7
Guidelines Set for Travel to Risk Areas

New report addresses safety of faculty, staff, grad students

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

A university task force has released a series of recommendations aimed at enhancing the safety of Johns Hopkins faculty, staff and graduate students who travel abroad, in particular those who work or study in areas of conflict.

In September 2004, Provost Steven Knapp charged the War Zone Task Force with examining issues related to international travel to high-risk areas by these affiliates. The report defines high-risk areas as countries or regions on the State Department's travel warning list and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's travel health warning list. Sudan, Iraq, Israel, Congo-Kinshasa and Somalia are among those included.

Pamela Cranston, associate provost for academic affairs, chaired the 11-member task force, which concluded its work this summer. To accomplish its goals, the task force met with divisional representatives, conducted an informal survey of peer institutions to determine their policies governing international travel and consulted with a variety of nongovernmental organizations that work regularly in high-risk areas.

Cranston said that the group's primary focus was to ascertain what the university could and should do to enhance the safety of those on Johns Hopkins-related business or graduate study in troubled areas of the globe, whether it's a School of Medicine faculty member administering emergency medical training in Gaza or a School of Public Health graduate student conducting research in Afghanistan.

The School of Public Health alone spent $6.8 million last year on international travel for sponsored research, and a significant portion of that travel was to conflict areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq. School of Medicine staff also frequently travel abroad for research purposes, and each year more than 150 SAIS students participate in international internships.

As a new overarching university policy, the task force recommended that faculty, staff and graduate students should be cautioned about, but not prohibited from, traveling to high-risk areas of the world. The report said that "in order to fulfill the mission of the university, Johns Hopkins faculty and staff must continue to be able to make their own professional judgments about business travel, balancing the risks with the rewards that international travel to high-risk areas may provide."

Cranston said that while the task force recommended not to restrict travel, the group did realize that it might be helpful to direct persons to more information about specific risk of traveling to an area where there could be fighting in the streets or the threat of a car bombing.

"We felt the university's responsibility is to provide as much information as possible, and in a user-friendly way, in order for our people to make good, informed decisions," Cranston said. "There is no way for us to completely ensure the safety of our Hopkins family, but we can do a better job of getting them the information that they need when they voluntarily put themselves at risk."

Specifically, graduate students will now be required to complete an international travel checklist and submit it to the dean or her/his designee. The checklist will include reminders regarding health insurance, vaccinations, host country approval and the need to provide contact information to family and a faculty adviser.

Likewise, faculty and staff must provide notification and emergency contact information to their dean or his/her designee prior to travel to high-risk areas, as required by the university's travel accident insurance policy. In addition, each division will be asked to implement a notification process that will record and monitor submitted travel information, and to designate a senior-level administrator to be its travel safety and security coordinator.

When traveling in an area where regular communication is difficult, Hopkins affiliates are now asked to maintain contact with the division's travel safety and security coordinator and, if necessary, the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. For those who are likely to stay for a prolonged period in a high-risk area, registration at a U.S. embassy or consulate is essential, the report says.

Other recommendations include that those traveling abroad should "vigilantly monitor" consular and press reports, and that "no one may be required or coerced" to travel to high-risk areas. Staff and graduate students who travel, it says, must assume responsibility for their own safety and security.

The report also includes recommendations pertinent to insurance, including one that requests the Johns Hopkins Office of Benefits Administration to renegotiate its disability insurance and voluntary personal accident policies to provide coverage for losses sustained due to terrorism and while traveling abroad on university business to war-risk countries.

In terms of education, the report calls for the university to enhance its international travel Web site with more links to government and nongovernment sites that provide up-to-date travel-related warnings, advice, laws and regulations. The site will also contain a "Tips for Traveling Abroad" page.

In addition to Cranston, the members of the task force were Edward Baker, associate dean for finance and administration at SAIS; Paula Burger, vice provost and dean for undergraduate education; Patricia Day, senior director of employee and labor relations, Human Resources; P. Gregg Greenough, assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and deputy director of the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at the School of Public Health; Robert Harris, a global operations specialist at JHPIEGO; Douglas Hudson, director of special programs at APL; David Peters, associate professor and deputy director of academic programs in the Department of International Health at the School of Public Health; Eric Rebbert, chief administrative officer for the Center for Communication Programs at the School of Public Health; and Frederick Savage, acting vice president and general counsel.

Cranston said the implementation of the recommendations has already begun, and the task force has asked for full compliance by the start of the fall 2006 semester.

Undergraduate travel was not addressed because the Council of Deans in May 2004 endorsed a policy that prohibits student travel to countries where the State Department has issued a warning; a provision that allows students to petition for an exception was included. A full version of the report can be found at


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