April 07, 2011

Chris Muller, Assistant Director, Intramurals & Sport Clubs,
University of Texas at Arlington

To develop an effective travel policy for your Sport Club program, first determine what you want to accomplish with the implementation of the policy. Steven Covey, in his The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, implores people to “begin with the end in mind.” Get some direction from your department or others within your institution as they may have previous experiences or knowledge with travel. The key priority is developing and implementing reasonable controls that will keep students safe and minimize risk for your institution. Review of current travel policies within your institution, other in-state and nationwide peer institutions, can provide insight — and a good starting point.

After completion of peer review and confirming department and institutional objectives, department policies can be developed or modified. Risk management and safety should be at the forefront of your thought process. There are several ways to address key transportation issues, but important factors that must be addressed are individual past driving experiences, training provided, and driving conditions. Key components of an effective travel policy include:

  • developing a “travel form”
  • establishing a deadline for the travel request submission
  • addressing the safety of vehicles (whether university or personally owned)
  • examining driving records of potential driver
  • training programs (such a defensive driving class)
  • number and range of hours of the day that allow travel
  • individual health insurance
  • medical emergency response
  • vehicle accident response
  • establishing university/department emergency contacts.

While the above list is not exhaustive, and each institution faces specific concerns, it does address many of the key areas that each club program faces.

Input from student club members remains important in the policy development and may allow trouble-shooting before implementation. Often, students may not agree with the final policy but will appreciate having input into its development. Before implementation, consideration of the previous policy, reason for the changes, and budget impact should be considered. Try to anticipate any questions and be prepared to justify the answers to both those within your department and others in your institution. Proper preparation will lead to a more well received implementation and justification for any future scrutiny of the policy. While budget limitations always exist, the safety and welfare of students is most important. Policy changes may increase your budget, but the justification of safety and elimination of a potential law suit can support the increased costs. Final policies may need approval at the vice-president/vice-chancellor level or university attorney, but by utilizing current institutional standards and input from various individuals this review should be straightforward.

The last and possibly most difficult step is implementation throughout your sport club program. Proper distribution and presentation is crucial for the clubs understanding and buy in to policy change. Like everyone else, clubs are resistant to change, so point out the positives of the policy. Finally, like most aspects of risk management, travel is in a state of constant evolution. Evaluate and consider revisions to your travel policy on an annual basis.

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