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Field expectations

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Professional conduct in the field

Fieldwork on land and at sea is core to the educational mission in Stanford Earth. Field experiences provide important educational, research, and career advancement opportunities, yet also present challenges that can compromise successful outcomes, a sense of inclusion, and well-being. Remoteness, unfamiliar or challenging physical situations, prolonged personal interactions, and unclear behavioral norms can all contribute to undesired and damaging outcomes—outcomes with potential for physical, emotional, and career harm. Each member of our community has a role to play in sustaining a safe and healthy field environment, and trip leaders are expected to design and implement measures that mitigate risk, inappropriate conduct, and harassment. The field is an extension of our workplace; all University and School policies apply in the field as they do on campus.

Guidelines for field research, field trips, and travel study

Acknowledging that rare field emergencies might call for flexible interpretation of some of the following points, our expectations include (and are not limited to) the following:

  • Trip leader convenes a pre-trip meeting/orientation that clearly outlines goals, expectations, and individual roles. This occurs at a time sufficient to allow participants to evaluate and communicate possible accommodation needs.  This meeting should include (and is not limited to):
    • anticipated sleeping, bathroom, and eating arrangements.  How will considerations for gender identity, dietary restrictions, or other concerns impact decisions?
    • expected duties and how duties will rotate in a way that ensures equity and inclusion.
    • physical and other environmental conditions that participants should expect. Are there accessibility challenges? How will necessary equipment/gear be made available to all who need it?
    • expectations for conduct. Are there group norms, local cultural norms, or local laws to consider and prepare for?
    • expectations for alcohol and controlled substances. Stanford’s policies,  articulated in Explore Courses and in the Administrative Guide, apply whenever the business of the University is being conducted and there may be even stricter rules in a given local setting.
  • Accommodation needs are invited and the process to request accommodations in a confidential manner is made clear to all participants.
  • Emergency plans and a process for communication are clear before departure. The home department or unit must have an accurate and updated participant list that includes both Stanford participants and any others who may be accompanying the trip.
  • Leadership and decision responsibility need to be clear at all times, with a known path for reporting concerns, harassment issues, or incidents by any participant.
    • Where there is a hierarchical leadership structure (e.g., faculty leader + TA, ship captain + senior scientist), it is important for people to know to whom they can report and for what types of reasons.
    • If a person feels in physical danger or a target of harassment, they should have the option to leave a trip immediately and/or to report to any other participant.
  • To the extent possible, at least three persons should be on any trip, and individuals should not work alone in remote or potentially dangerous situations.
  • Safety briefings should be routine and at a frequency consistent with changing conditions.
    • Harassment awareness needs to be a part of these discussions, especially when working or living in a broader community such as at field stations, aboard ship, or other shared facilities.
    • An emergency response plan and ready access to emergency communication devices should be available to all participants. When a single individual holds the only path to communication devices this can be perceived as “gatekeeping,” and is especially problematic if that person is in a position of leadership or power.
  • Faculty members or other primary instructors should not share rooms, tents, etc. with students, postdocs, or staff for any reason.
  • Behavioral norms can blur between work/instructional time and leisure time in the field. Any time employees are with students or those they supervise, they should comport themselves as if at work and in alignment with the University Code of Conduct. Students should further abide by all aspects of the Fundamental Standard and Honor Code.