Essential Travel

Dear faculty and departmental/school administrations,

The University’s most recent directive related to the dynamic COVID-19 situation calls on you to approve only “essential” university-related domestic travel.  Here we provide a high-level summary of where we are right now on approving employee travel then some guidance on what qualifies as “essential”. 

A high-level summary of where we are right now:

  • Clemson has suspended all international travel
  • We discourage non-essential domestic travel
  • All future travel should be booked through the University’s contracted travel agent, located:, where you will find the following pdf:

  • The information below can be used to help determine “essential” travel

 Guidance on what qualifies as “essential” travel:

  • First, we recognize that determining what is “Essential” will be difficult because there is a continuum of how “Essential” travels can be, with few or no clean breaks between categories.
  • We also recognize that in judging essential travel, one discipline may fix different values to the same kind of travel objective (e.g., a refereed conference paper holds high value in computer science equivalent to a peer-reviewed publication, but this is not the case in biology).
  • To help you think through these difficult decisions and conversations, we offer some examples to help you determine your own definitions. 
  • Your college may provide more detailed guidance.
  • If in doubt, when you make a determination, we advise erring on the side of protecting people’s health (i.e., turn down the request).
  • Examples of travel that MAY be seen as essential in your department/school:

o   PhD student needs to collect time-sensitive field or laboratory data (in a specialized lab not available at Clemson or for a time-sensitive long-term experiment sampling) to complete a series of experiments.  Failure to do so at this time will seriously threaten the student’s thesis project or will jeopardize meeting critical objectives in agreements where there it is not possible to obtain no-cost extensions.

o   A faculty member, staff or student is providing a keynote talk that cannot take place in a virtual setting, or receiving a major national or international award at a major conference.

o   Preliminary data vital for submitting a major grant application can only be obtained by travel and must occur immediately (cannot be postponed), failure to do so will take away all possibility to submit a proposal, and the funding agency will not have another request for funding.

o   Being an officer in a major professional society it is vital for you to attend the national meeting because you will be presiding over significant activities critical for the meeting and professional society and this activity cannot take place in a virtual arrangement.

o   Your travel is vital (it must be YOU) to keep an animal colony viable, or to administer health care in a clinical trial

o   You are the sole individual capable of delivering important teaching or extension communications for activities that cannot be delayed, cannot be taught online, and cannot be conducted using video- or tele-conferencing (example: phone, Skype or Zoom).

  • Examples of travel that are probably not essential:

o   Attending a conference or presenting a contributing paper or poster, where impact on scholarship and reputation can be made up over time. In such cases, consider encouraging your faculty, staff and students to reach out to organizers indicating that they would like to be re-invited and/or serve leadership roles for future conferences and workshops. Other options may include something along the lines of encouraging researchers to contact people that they had hoped to meet and set up conference calls to network and discuss research or activity ideas.

o   Meeting with colleagues where phone calls or videoconference (Skype, Zoom) can meet most or all of the needs

o   Doing anything that can be postponed with no appreciable harm to scholarship.