One has a tenure track position. Before leaving out of town for a conference or a seminar talk one has to fill in a form a month in advance (at least in some departments) even if one does not apply for any financial support, and there is no problem with teaching.

Question. What are the goals of this procedure?

I am mostly asking about the US, but other answers are also welcome.

  • 14
    In Germany this is about the insurance- Loosely speaking: If you are "on duty", some insurances of your employer apply. If you are on a business trip but the employer was not informed, you are not on duty and hence, their insurance will not apply.
    – Dirk
    Mar 12 '17 at 16:00
  • @Wrzlprmft: Mostly the US. But other answers are also of interest.
    – user65203
    Mar 12 '17 at 16:35
  • 2
    @Dirk - That looks like an answer. Mar 12 '17 at 17:20

Employers generally like to keep track of their employees' whereabouts, both for practical reasons related to things like insurance (as mentioned in the comments) and to prevent abuse in the form of employees using work time for completely personal travel.

Now, in the specific context of your question, it's true that academic faculty enjoy an almost unparalleled freedom to travel whenever and wherever they like during times when they don't have specific duties like teaching. Most faculty are responsible and ethical people who wouldn't abuse this freedom, but in a large department or institution invariably there will be some who aren't. The form that you are describing is a minimal form of oversight that lets the department know when faculty are traveling and for what reasons, and signals to the faculty that they should act responsibly and that ultimately their travel during workdays is subject to scrutiny by their employers. Maybe it is a bit annoying and intrusive, but if you compare this level of scrutiny to what workers in basically all other industries are subject to, I think you will find that academics are incredibly fortunate, and that having to fill a form isn't really a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

  • 9
    The only thing that appears out of order to me is the 1 month advance, which seems a bit too much. I hope there are workarounds for the case "I just found out there is this seminar in a close-by city in 2 days and I want to attend". Mar 12 '17 at 19:02
  • 3
    @FedericoPoloni well I'd be surprised if there isn't a whole lot more flexibility about the amount of advance notice than the official policy would suggest. OP should ask their department chair about the local customs at the department. For example at my dept one needs to fill a travel request 7 days in advance for leaves of 7 days or shorter, or three weeks in advance for longer ones (since those requests need to be approved by the dean). This rule is quite frequently ignored though, and somehow the world keeps turning...
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 12 '17 at 19:14

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