Task Force on Off-Campus Travel gives first report

Task Force on Off-Campus Travel gives first report

By Task Force on Off-Campus Travel co-chairs Dr. Gene Scapanski, vice president for mission; Dr. Angeline Barretta-Herman, associate vice president for academic affairs; and Edna Comedy, associate vice president of human resources

As co-chairs of a Task Force on Off-Campus Travel for faculty and staff, we want to report on the work done by the task force since it was appointed last month by the Rev. Dennis Dease, president.

The task force has met twice and scheduled other meetings this month as it carries out the assignment to, as Father Dease reported in his Feb. 7 Bulletin Today column, “assist the university in reviewing, clarifying, and, where necessary, developing policies to convey a clear and consistent message about the responsibility of faculty and staff traveling with students for off-campus curricular and co-curricular activities.”

The president also asked the task force to develop a policy “that honors the Catholic values of this university community while respecting the consciences of its members."

The task force wants to reiterate statements made by Father Dease and others in media stories that we have no interest in developing a policy that intrudes on individuals' private lives or forces anyone to act against his or her conscience.

Father Dease has asked the task force to make explicit what has long been the expectation of the university that a faculty or staff member leading students on a university-sponsored trip respect Catholic values regarding marriage and not share living quarters with his or her unmarried partner on that trip. The task force views its role to define a policy that will address this one issue.

The cohabitation issue was the crux of two recent cases involving faculty and staff members. In both cases, the individuals were asked to make separate living arrangements during the trips. In both cases, they declined and did not go on the trips. 

In considering this issue, the task force is reviewing policies and guidelines from other colleges and universities, both public and private. We also will consult with the directors of St. Thomas travel programs, including those involving faculty members who teach January Terms and semesters abroad and staff members who lead VISION trips, coach our athletic teams and lead other programs that involve travel with students. We want their input and to know how they would be affected by a policy as suggested above.

We will complete our work by March 15. As always, we welcome your comments. Please feel free to send them to any task force members. In addition to the co-chairs, members include Dr. Bernard Brady, Jane Canney, Doug Hennes, Dr. Lawrence Potter, Dr. Margaret Reif, Dr. Richard Rexeisen, Dr. Susan Smith-Cunnien and Dr. Sarah Stevenson.