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Faculty and Staff Travel Policies

Northwestern does not regulate the international travel of its faculty or staff.  Faculty and staff visiting higher-risk locations under a U.S. Department of State (DOS) Travel Advisory Level 3 – Reconsider Travel or Level 4 – Do Not Travel are not required to submit a travel release. However, faculty and staff who accompany students abroad, particularly undergraduates, are expected to undergo pre-departure trip leader training.  Contact Global Safety to schedule this training.

Travel Insurance

As of January 1, 2017, Faculty and staff who travel internationally on Northwestern business are automatically covered by Northwestern's business travel insurance program provided by GeoBlue.  There will be no cost to the traveler or department for this benefit. The program will also cover any spouse/partner or dependents who may accompany you while traveling on business. For more information about registration, plan coverage and limitations, go to GeoBlue for Employees.

Trip leaders

Regardless of the destination or duration of a university-sponsored trip or program abroad, Northwestern employees who accompany students abroad accept a leadership role in understanding and mitigating risk. The Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS) offers regular “Trip Leader Training” sessions for faculty and staff to help them identify and manage foreseeable risks as well as be prepared to respond to emergencies. The OGSS also offers “First Responder” training for those who do not travel, but may be the recipient of communications regarding an emergency need abroad. 

Faculty or staff advising undergraduate students on university-sponsored independent travel should review the Undergraduate international travel policy if a country under a U.S. Department of State Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory is under consideration. Additionally, review the specific requirements for Undergraduate Students as you may be helping your travelers complete requirements on time in collaboration with the OGSS.

Incident reporting 

The safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff who are involved with or participating in NU study abroad programs (or travel overseas for other types of university-related activity or business) is of the highest importance, and all reasonable actions will be taken to manage risks and respond to emergencies while acknowledging that no single plan can address all contingencies. The university recognizes the importance of establishing, in advance, policies and procedures to guide the University's response to crises affecting university-sponsored travelers abroad.

As emergencies can occur at any time, the Northwestern University Police are prepared to accept calls involving international emergencies. The duty officer will collect information as outlined in these procedures and then pass the information on to the Director of the Office of Global Safety and Security (DGSS), who is charged with responding to after-hours overseas emergency calls. If the DGSS is indisposed or already responding to another incident, back-up responders are identified. The DGSS or his/her representative will reach out to additional responders  for advice/support regarding situations requiring other expertise. Medical emergencies are responded to in collaboration with GeoBlue, our international medical insurance and assistance provider, who should be involved as soon as possible at (610) 254-8771. Security evacuations, if necessary, would be managed in collaboration with GeoBlue and Drum Cussac, our evacuation assistance provider.

Real vs. perceived emergencies

There is distinction between "real" and "perceived" emergencies. Real emergencies are those that pose a genuine and sometimes immediate risk to, or that have already disturbed, the safety and well-being of participants. These include serious physical or emotional illness; accidents; physical assaults; harassment; occurrences such as coups and other civil disturbances; natural and man-made disasters; incarceration or detention; disappearances or kidnappings; and terrorist threats and attacks.

Perceived emergencies are those which pose no significant risks to the safety and well-being of participants, but which are seen as threatening by family members in the U.S. or by others, including, at times, students and colleagues at the home university. Perceptions of threat can arise from a number of causes, including the sensationalized reporting of an event abroad; the distortion of information provided by a participant in communicating home; or simply out of the nervousness of a family member or student with little or no international experience. Such perceptions will sometimes affect family members and others in the U.S. more strongly than will real emergencies, and need to be treated seriously.

Incident notification

Any member of the campus community may receive notification of an international emergency, which would likely fall into one of three incident categories: critical, emergency and non-emergency.

Critical incidents

A critical incident requires an immediate institutional response and should be reported to the Director, Office of Global Safety and Security (DGSS) by phone, not e-mail, as soon as possible. Some examples include: life threatening injuries or illness; victim of violent crime (including sexual assault); arrest or detention by local or federal authorities; harassment of any kind (e.g. gender, race religion, sexual orientation, etc.); major disciplinary offenses that lead to significant program disruptions/distractions; weather so severe it alters the program itinerary or puts participants in danger, such as an earthquake or hurricane; and acts of terrorism or widespread civil unrest in the student’s vicinity. The DGSS will work with appropriate campus officials in addition to the appropriate sponsoring administrative and/or academic unit(s) to respond to the emergency. In the most serious cases, the International Crisis Management Team (ICMT) may be called by the DGSS, or the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education.

Emergency incidents

An emergency incident requires a timely institutional response and should be reported to the DGSS by e-mail. Some examples include: non-life threatening illness or injury, such as brief office visit or hospitalization for intestinal distress or minor injury; victim of petty crime, such as pickpocketing; minor disciplinary offenses that lead to limited program disruptions/distractions; reprimand or citation by local or federal authorities; weather severe enough to alter a program’s itinerary, but not put participants in danger; and acts of terrorism or civil unrest in the program country, but not in proximity to the student. The DGSS will work with the appropriate sponsoring administrative and/or academic unit(s) to determine who should provide the response and what actions should be taken.

Non-emergency incident

A non-emergency incident requires timely recording by the institution, but no action on the part of the DGSS. Some examples include: illness or injury that does not require medical attention; lost passports or other important documents; verbal warnings to students for first time minor disciplinary offenses, such as tardiness to class/excursions; severe weather patterns that may impact on program operations or itinerary in the future (such as volcanic eruptions causing flight cancellations); or limited/sporadic acts of civil disobedience in the student’s vicinity but no serious enough to effect programmatic changes. The DGSS will confirm that with appropriate sponsoring administrative and/or academic unit(s) that an appropriate response occurred and no further action is needed.

The most common non-emergency incident seems like a critical incident to travelers when a passport is lost or stolen close to a return date. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (BCA) can guide U.S. citizens on how to replace a lost or stolen passport abroad: (888) 407-4747 (from the U.S. or Canada) or (202) 501-4444 (from abroad). Non-U.S. citizens should contact their respective embassy or consulate abroad. 

Note: Certain crimes that occur abroad may fall under NU's Clery reporting obligations based on a variety of factors. More information on reportable crimes can be found on the University Compliance website under Campus Security. It is especially important to report any crimes that have occurred abroad to NU students, staff or faculty. The OGSS and the University Compliance office will work together to determine whether the incident is Clery reportable. Remember, Clery does not collect personally identifiable information, so a victim’s identify will be protected.

Notification protocol

The first responder (individual receiving first notification of the incident) may complete the International Incident Intake Form or use it as a guide to compose an email to the DGSS. In all cases where a coordinated university response is required, the DGSS (or her/his representative) will work in concert with the appropriate academic unit that overseas the program/student experience. In most cases this will be a representative in the Global Learning Office or the Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies/The Center for Global Engagement, or the Provost’s Office (for undergraduates conducting independent research abroad). Other contacts are noted below.

  • For emergencies involving graduate/professional school students, the DGSS will coordinate with the student’s faculty advisor and the Graduate or relevant Professional School’s Dean, Associate Dean or other designated emergency contact.
  • For emergencies involving non-study abroad NU-sponsored student travelers (for research, athletic team travel, music or theatre performance group travel, internships, conference attendance, etc.) the DGSS will work with the Dean or Associate Dean of the sponsoring school/professional program as well as relevant members of the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and/or the Dean of Students.
  • For emergencies involving faculty or staff traveling on university business, the DGSS will work directly with the affected individual to determine other units or individuals on campus that need to be involved in the response, including Human Resources.

Contact information 

To reach the DGSS (or his/her back-up) through the University Police to report critical incidents, call (847) 491-3456 (preferred method) or make phone or e-mail contact directly using the following information:

First Point-of-Contact Backup to the DGSS Backup to the VPRM
Title Director, Global Safety and Security (DGSS) Asst. VP for Risk Management & Environmental Health & Safety (VPRM) Assistant Director, Global Safety and Security
Name Julie Anne Friend Luke Figora Beth Osterlund
Contact Call (847) 467-3175 or email Julie Anne Friend Call (847) 491-7696 or (847) 491-5610 or email Luke Figora Call (847) 467-3899 or email Beth Osterlund

Scientific researchers

Northwestern Office for Export Controls and Compliance (OECC) assists investigators to comply with export control laws, however the primary responsibility rests with the person engaged in exporting activities. Researchers, whether students, faculty or staff, must understand and adhere to their obligations under federal export controls regulations. 

The consequences for violating these regulations can be severe, including significant monetary, civil and/or criminal penalties.

Please contact OECC with any questions or concerns.