Managing Group Dynamics
Informal groups will form during the program to fill the emotional, social, and psychological needs of the student participants. While this can lead to new and productive social networks and personal transformations, there are still plenty of opportunities for group dynamics to go wrong. You can minimize possible negative effects through specific strategies:
- Be accessible to the group and communicate with all members regularly on an informal basis, even before course goes abroad.
- Keep the group informed and involve them when possible in decision-making, especially regarding revisions to pre-set plans or general travel planning. Make sure all participate.
- Enlist the leadership of the informal group to achieve the goals of the larger group.
- Encourage the positive influences of the informal group.
- Make group members aware (delicately) of any negative influences of their informal group. They may not even be aware of these negative influences and are likely to modify their behavior.
- Remember that first impressions are lasting. Make arrivals into a new locale smooth and provide a special reception for the group.
- When going to new accommodations, be aware of students' comfort in housing and respond to concerns.
The information given here is taken in part from the Accel-Team website.
Common Behavioral Issues & Other Concerns
When managing students, behavioral issues and other concerns may arise, which affect the flow and environment of the course abroad. Establish protocol and expectations to deal with disruptive behaviors and communicate them to students to avoid the complications. Know how to deal with other issues such as driving abroad, fraternization, sexual harassment, and student supervision.
Make sure your students are clear about your expectations and the local culture's social and legal rules regarding alcohol consumption. Student Code expects students to act responsibly with any alcohol consumption and not disrupt or call into disrepute any University activity.
Vehicle Use Abroad
Road travel is the single greatest risk abroad. For liability, avoid driving students yourself. Also, student driving should be discouraged. Instead, use licensed driving services or public transportation. If renting vehicles abroad, buy the insurance offered.
If a student misses two or more consecutive class days without explanation, the Faculty Director must seek to determine the location of the student. If the student cannot be located, it will be considered an emergency situation. If, after investigation, it is determined that an emergency situation does not exist, the student will be reminded that attendance is an indispensable part of the study abroad experience. A student who, through his or her absence, demonstrates that he or she has withdrawn from the program during a semester or summer session without obtaining an official withdrawal will be reported as having failed all courses.
Supervision & Backup
Faculty Directors must ensure that someone is always in charge. An assistant leader must be available in case the faculty leader is unable to function. If possible, it is helpful to have both male and female designated leaders on each trip.
- Group Shepherding: It is necessary to have systems in place to help shepherd participants. Examples may include the use of sheriffs, extra staff, or the buddy system. It is important to have contingency plans for separation and insure that students are aware of such plans.
- Faculty Free Time: Free time with or away from the group can be necessary for your own sanity, but comes with responsibilities. You are always on duty if a problem arises; please make sure your judgment is sound. Avoid becoming unavailable to the group.
Documenting Behavioral & Other Incidences
It is critical that you document all potential problems, and your documentation will be more valuable if you submit it to SAO as a third party. One important reason for documenting potential problems is to protect yourself and the University. Please keep SAO informed of situations that are arising, so that the SAO can represent you, your actions, and our program when parents or others call.
- Due to concerns about liability, student safety and program integrity recommends strict dismissal enforcement when a major infraction has occurred.
- Consult with your study abroad personnel and other university officials as necessary.
- Thoroughly document all events and behaviors in case dismissal becomes necessary.
- Have students sign any necessary documents.
- Know that even an immediate dismissal may still leave the dismissed under some level of program supervision until he/she has had opportunity to leave for home.
Maintain communication with the University of Illinois regarding any issue that arises to reduce liability. Be attuned to issues such as sexual harassment and negligence, among others. If you have any concerns regarding an issue we advise you to document the situation as thoroughly as possible.
In an emergency, your first responsibility is to safeguard the safety and well-being of program participants. Do whatever is necessary to ensure this, whether this means obtaining prompt and appropriate medical attention, Embassy intervention, or police protection. You will, of course, be reimbursed for all expenses relating to the management of an emergency.
Contact the Study Abroad Office
When you have done all that you reasonably can to ensure the student's well-being, immediately contact the Study Abroad Office by phone at 217-333-1216 or by email.
The SAO Advisor-on-Duty or other staff member will ask for information about a number of issues, and will take careful notes of sufficient detail so as to be able to write a chronological sequence of events leading up to, during and after the emergency. He or she will use the following as a checklist during conversations:
Incident-specific issues address the appropriate type of crisis:
- If a participant(s) has fallen seriously ill: Has International Insurance emergency assistance been contacted? What medical treatment has he or she received? Does the attending physician speak English? What is the diagnosis? The prescribed treatment? The prognosis? Are other participants at risk from this illness? Is airlift a desirable and viable action?
- If a participant has been seriously injured: Has International Insurance emergency assistance been contacted? What are the details of the accident? What has the on-site response been? Does the attending physician speak English? Where has the participant been taken? What is the diagnosis? The prescribed treatment? The prognosis? Is airlift a desirable and viable action?
- If a participant has been assaulted or raped: Has International Insurance emergency assistance been contacted? What are the details of the incident? What has the on-site response been? Where has the participant been taken? If a rape or sexual assault, is local professional counseling available? Counseling in English? Has appropriate local law enforcement been notified? What is the medical diagnosis? The prescribed treatment? The prognosis? Is the participant interested in returning to the U.S.? If so, what will the likely academic and financial consequences be? Are the participant and the counselor aware of these consequences?
- If a participant is missing: When was he or she last seen? Does anyone have any idea about where they might have gone? If they left and were expected to return at a specific time, when was the date and time of the expected return? Did the participant tell anyone of plans to be absent? Are search and rescue operations available on site? Are these reliable? Have they already been initiated? Should they be initiated? Have the local missing persons officials been notified? What is the case number?
- If a student has been arrested: Has he or she been detained? Has the U.S. Embassy been notified? What has their response been? What is their advice? What agency made the arrest and filed the charges? What are the names, addresses and phone numbers of arresting authorities? What is the case number? What rights have been granted? Is he/she entitled to place a phone call?
- If a student has been taken hostage: Has the U.S. Embassy been notified? What is the Embassy's advice? Have the kidnappers made contact? Is negotiation support available on site? Who is the contact person at the Embassy, and at the State Department in Washington, D.C.? What are their titles and contact numbers?
- If the emergency is political in nature, or if a natural or man-made disaster has occurred: Has the U.S. Embassy advised participants to take appropriate action? Have all participants been made aware of these precautions, and in writing? Are all participants following these precautions? Have local authorities imposed a curfew? Is travel in or out of the country being restricted in any way? Is the group in danger? Who or what is the target of any unrest? Has any particular group or organization been threatened? What kind of military or other security or public safety personnel are present? Are they unusually visible? How are they behaving with respect to the civilian population? Is airlift a desirable and viable action?
The person bearing the responsibility of reporting the incident (i.e. faculty member, resident director, RSO group leader or SAO Advisor on Duty) should complete an Illinois Education Abroad Incident Report Form and submit the completed form to the Study Abroad Office as directed.
Notify the Local U.S. Embassy or Consulate
Notify the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate about the crisis, and follow whatever procedures they may require; if there is a continuing risk to the welfare of the students (during a terrorist threat, for example), ask the appropriate Embassy or Consulate Officer to advise you on a regular basis about the evolution of the crisis, and about how the students should respond.
Keep the SAO Informed
During an on-going crisis, keep SAO informed on a regular basis, through telephone 217-333-1216, fax 217-244-0249 or email messages (firstname.lastname@example.org, SAO Acting Director Dr. Moira Rogers: email@example.com), about the evolution of the crisis, until it has passed.
Course of Action
After SAO is informed about an emergency and after we consult with you and other appropriate individuals on site, we may, depending on the acuteness of the crisis, fax you a description of the course of action that you and the students will need to follow. All program participants will be required to sign a statement acknowledging that they have received, read, and understood this response plan; after all of the participants in your group have signed, please fax SAO the signed acknowledgments.
It is highly unlikely that participants would need to be evacuated from a site abroad: of the hundreds of U.S. institutions operating programs abroad when the Gulf War broke out, only a handful concluded that events indicated that they should bring their students home. However, we would bring faculty members and students home if a situation were to deteriorate to the point where the degree of risk to participants was deemed unacceptable. If this unlikely event were to happen, the Director of SAO, in consultation with you, the U.S. Embassy and State Department, and appropriate individuals on the home campus would develop an evacuation plan in as much detail as possible. This plan would be transmitted to you in confidence, and we would continue to work closely with you throughout the throughout the process.
If program participant is missing (more than 24 hours):
- Ask friends and associates about his/her whereabouts.
- Notify the U.S. embassy/consulate, local police, and host institution and give them your telephone number.
- Notify SAO immediately at 217-333-1216, and provide as many details as possible regarding what happened and what is being done.
- Check with authorities daily and inform SAO of any new developments.
- Inform the local law enforcement agency.
- Assist the student in obtaining funds to replace stolen money and/or passports by contacting their emergency contact. Go to the nearest U.S. consulate/embassy with a photocopy of the original passport information page for replacement.
- Notify SAO immediately.
- Obtain the police report, if possible.
Student Arrest or Detention
- Obtain as much information as possible concerning the arrest/detention, including:
- Name of participants
- Date, place, and time of arrest/detention
- Alleged occurrence (summary of incident)
- Who was involved
- Location at which the person is being held
- Normal police/judicial procedure from this point
- Obtain a copy of police report
- Contact SAO at 217-333-1216
- Notify the U.S. embassy/consulate
- Visit the detained/arrested individual and be source of communication.
- Study Abroad Office 24-hour emergency phone: 217-333-1216
- Dean of Students, 24-hour Dean-on-Duty: 217-333-0050
- LAS Barbara Hancin-Bhatt: 217-333-4447