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Princeton ‘not optimistic’ about international travel this summer

Revised spring travel guidelines released this week keep University-sponsored travel largely restricted

<h4>The Louis A. Simpson Building, which houses the Davis International Center.</h4>
<h5>Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian</h5>

The Louis A. Simpson Building, which houses the Davis International Center.

Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

“We are not optimistic about University-sponsored international travel in summer 2021,” Associate Provost for International Affairs and Operations Aly Kassam-Remtulla wrote to students earlier this week.

Some summer international programs had already cancelled their travel component before the announcement. The Daily Princetonian reported in November that the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies’ Global Seminars and the Spanish and Portuguese department summer language programs had gone virtual.

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Since then, the 2021 Princeton in Beijing program has also announced a transition to all-virtual programming. The International Internship Program (IIP) is still “evaluating both in-country and remote positions” according to their website.

A final decision on international University-sponsored travel will be made in May 2021.

Kassam-Remtulla’s Dec. 17 message also outlined the University’s revised travel guidelines for Spring 2021. University-sponsored domestic and international travel remain largely suspended under the guidelines, which apply to all faculty members, staff, and students and will go into effect on Jan. 10.

Guidelines for Personal Travel

In line with previous University statements, students under the social contract will have stricter limits placed on personal travel, “including a general prohibition on traveling beyond Mercer County and/or Plainsboro Township except under a small number of circumstances.”

Everyone under the social contract, per the University’s travel guidance website, including students living off-campus, must “enroll the details of their personal travel outside of Mercer County, New Jersey, regardless of duration or purpose” with the Global Safety & Security (GS&S) unit. Undergraduates will no longer have to register personal travel within Plainsboro Township with the GS&S unit, however.

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The University will continue to discourage personal travel for those studying or working near campus who do not fall under the social contract, though not imposing direct restrictions.

“[T]ravel of any type carries with it risks to you as the traveler and risks to the communities you visit and to which you return,” the revised guidelines note. “The purpose of the trip is immaterial to these risks, and so it is critical for all University affiliates — especially those who are part of or interacting with the on-campus community — to limit their travel as much as possible and only to those journeys that are absolutely necessary.”

Updated University-Sponsored Travel Policy

Under the revised travel guidelines, “undergraduates may not engage in University-sponsored domestic travel unless granted an individual exception by the Associate Provost for International Affairs and Operations.”

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This includes any travel supported by University funds, travel related to University operations (including research and teaching), or travel undertaken by enrolled undergraduate and graduate students that “results in work that will be considered for academic credit or is otherwise related to a student’s program of study”.

In the select cases where University-sponsored travel is approved, “University affiliates must register the details of University-sponsored trips to any destination, as well as their contact information, with the Global Safety & Security (GS&S) unit prior to departure.”

The registration requirements have been extended from “travel outside the New York-to-Philadelphia corridor” to “all University-sponsored domestic travel outside of New Jersey.”

The revised policy also explicitly states that travel by non-enrolled undergraduate and graduate students is not considered University-sponsored, “even if it eventually results in the granting of transfer credits by the University.”

University-sponsored international travel is also suspended, except under several explicit circumstances.

Specifically, travel may be permitted in cases where faculty members and research staff must conduct “essential research, as determined by their department chair or the cabinet officer to whom they report” or for the purposes of “critical recruitment or relocation of new employees,” as determined by Dean of the Faculty Sanjeev Kulkarni or Vice President for Human Resources Lianne Sullivan-Crowley.

University-sponsored international travel may also be permitted for financial-aid-supported travel necessary for a student to reach campus or return to their place of ordinary residence.

Looking forward to the summer

In his message to students, Kassam-Remtulla said the University is not optimistic about international travel this summer, despite recent advancements in vaccinations. Freedom to travel “will not be widely seen until at least early fall of next year.”

“Even when mass vaccinations on a worldwide scale have taken place, restarting the infrastructure of international travel will require many more months,” he wrote.

With updated guidance not expected until May, Kassam-Remtulla urged students not to rely on assumptions about the ability to engage in international travel.

“I also urge you to think carefully about advance bookings and other financial commitments for summer and beyond to avoid cancellation penalties and other non-refundable commitments,” he wrote.

Even those who will be approved for University-sponsored international travel will be required to take additional actions before traveling. Besides relocations and international students moving on or off campus for the semester, they “must complete and submit an advisement of risks prior to traveling” according to the guidelines.

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