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Citing the safety of faculty and students, the Montana Board of Regents approved a measure requiring all state campuses to adopt policies to review and approve university-related travel beyond areas covered by the state’s insurance plan.

The changes, adopted Friday on a 4-1 vote with Regent Jeffrey Krauss of Bozeman objecting, requires each campus to create a process to review and authorize travel to a country listed by the U.S. State Department as having a travel warning.

The requirement also affects travel to areas with “serious safety concerns,” or to locations not covered by the Montana University System’s insurance plan.

“We had a deep conversation about this policy at our planning retreat last month,” said Regent Paul Tuss of Havre. “It’s been vetted extensively. We do have a lot of people who travel.”

The changes also require the University of Montana and Montana State University to maintain a computer-based travel registry for international travel conducted by members of their affiliated campuses.

Regents say the registry will enable the schools to identify and assist all university travelers during an emergency while providing travelers with information prior to departure.

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The registry must be available this October.

“Our exposure prior to this has been significant without this policy,” said Regent Fran Albrecht of Missoula. “Providing that registry will ensure our students are in safe situations and that we know how to connect with them and handle situations that come up.”

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Krauss stated concerns that the new policy would establish an “overly bureaucratic” process. He also asked if it should apply only to those places listed by the State Department as having a travel warning.

Clayton Christian, commissioner of higher education, said issues come up during travel, even to locations deemed friendly. Earthquakes in Japan and events elsewhere, he argued, make it essential the university system can reach those who are abroad.

“It’s not our intention to establish an overly bureaucratic process,” Christian said. “We’d like to know where our people are. There’s liability to us and workmans compensation and other issues that make it appropriate for us to know where our students and faculty are.”

Policy 325, as it’s known, intends to “promote the health, safety and security of all members of the campus community when traveling internationally for university related activities.”

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Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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