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New travel policy requires informed decisions

MIT has announced a new "travel risk policy" requiring students, faculty and staff to increase their awareness of heightened risks posed by trips to areas where severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), war and terrorism are prevalent.

Insurance for business travel risk and emergency medical care are unavailable in 19 countries without pre-approval, which means a higher premium.

The policy states, "All members of the MIT community should be able to make well-informed travel decisions, and no one should be coerced or required to travel to locales where there are significantly heightened health or safety risks." The MIT policy was posted Monday and is available at

The MIT list of countries is based on travel warnings by the U.S. Department of State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization. While imperfect, these are considered the best sources of such information. The list will be reviewed on a weekly basis and updated as conditions change.

Seventeen countries are on the "highest travel warning" list, another 19 are on the "high travel warning" list and five others are on the "moderate travel warning" list. The moderate warning list includes parts of five countries that have other areas of higher risk.

Under the policy, faculty and staff may travel to areas on the warning lists but are urged not to do so, and they must sign a travel form indicating their awareness of the risks and taking responsibility for their decision. Under no circumstances may they require or enable a student or subordinate staff member to travel to areas on these lists.

In addition, unless a student is traveling home or a waiver is granted, MIT will not approve of or pay for student travel to locales with the high or highest travel warnings, or to places where MIT's travel insurance is unavailable.

Any member of the MIT community who travels for reasons unrelated to MIT and without financial support by MIT may travel at his or her own discretion.

Students traveling with MIT support or funding to "moderate travel warning" locales can make their own decisions.

For MIT business travel, the insurer AIG normally provides accidental death or dismemberment benefits of up to $50,000 for students and $250,000 for faculty and staff.

The new policy documents the approach that has been taken informally over the last 18 months in cases that have come to the attention of deans or heads of programs.

Questions about the policy may be directed to the deans of each school or MIT's senior counsel, Jamie Lewis Keith. Questions about insurance coverage may be directed to the Insurance Office.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 30, 2003.

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