To ensure transparency, The Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) shares our internal Travel Policies below which all members must adhere to.
Preamble: OTI provides an experiential component to the traditional university educational experience by giving university participants the opportunity to travel to the region and experience the challenges and issues firsthand, which usually are only read about in the news and discussed from a distance.
1. Security is our primary concern.
Every meeting must be in a secure environment. Security protocols will always be followed. If information arises which causes concern for safety, the concern will be discussed among the group leadership. To proceed with the planned event or activity, there must be unanimous agreement to do so among the trip participants. The event or activity must also have the approval, if feasible, of OTI’s governing board. If the decision is made to cancel the event, the group will revise their existing schedule. When the cancellation is known long enough ahead of time to properly vet a replacement activity or speaker in accordance with security concerns and the changes in program policy (#5), the group will do so. If the replacement is not possible, the group will engage in a group discussion on topics of interest or engage in a mock debate, or other academic activity.
2. Balance of speakers.
OTI will provide an equitable and balanced dialogue and experience for attendees. OTI will ensure that for each speaker and the position he/she presents, there will be a speaker with a counter-position. The daily reflection within the group further ensures that any speakers and their messages are critically discussed. Before the trip, the students study the bios and viewpoints of every speaker and generate probing questions to ask. To ensure balance, OTI uses a speaker and activity curriculum reviewed and approved for its balance by OTI’s academic advisory and/or governing boards.
3. No political activism during the trip.
OTI groups meet speakers for normally one hour and will not engage in political activism of any sort with any group or speaker (e.g. demonstrations, campaigning, signing petitions). All speakers and groups OTI meets with are instructed not to recruit any of the students for any issue or cause. Should such activism occur by a student, there will be one warning. If a similar incident occurs again, the student will be sent home immediately on the next reasonably available flight. Should such activism or recruitment occur by a speaker, the speaker will be warned publically that such conduct is a violation of the trip protocol, and if it continues the session will be immediately terminated, the students will be escorted out, and OTI will sever its relationship with the presenter.
4. Follow U.S. law.
As a program comprised of mostly U.S. citizens, and as a program sponsored by a California state institution, OTI is bound to adhere to all U.S. laws. This includes following all official U.S. policies regarding meeting with representatives of groups deemed as terrorist groups by U.S. law.
5. Changes in the program.
It is foreseeable that changes happen due to circumstances beyond our control. When possible, OTI will rearrange the schedule following the same due diligence protocols as outlined in #1 above concerning security and unanimous approvals of changes. When a change is unanimously approved and meets the security guidelines, we will replace meetings and speakers with people informed about the issue or event. Additional meetings outside of the one-to-one replacement spectrum can proceed only with prior unanimous approval of all group attendees and in coordination with the group’s university governing board.
6. Partnership policies.
For the Middle East
The Olive Tree Initiative has engaged in a formal partnership with the Center for New Diplomacy (which has staff and offices in Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank) to help with arrangements for groups traveling to the region. All Olive Tree Initiative groups have to work with the Center for New Diplomacy to guarantee the quality, security, integrity, and high organizational standards of trips to the Middle East. All Olive Tree Initiative groups are encouraged to make their own contacts and design their travel programs according to their needs, but should coordinate their efforts with the Center for New Diplomacy staff.
7. Balance of group.
All Olive Tree Initiative travel groups will consist of people from diverse backgrounds, political leanings, and affiliations to ensure diversity of perspectives and opinions.
8. Respectful behavior.
Olive Tree Initiative participants will always engage in respectful behavior throughout their travel. To that end, specific guidelines for behavior with speakers, behaviors among the group, and dress have been established. Failure to adhere to these guidelines is grounds for immediate termination of one’s participation.
9. Respect for religious practices, holidays and customs.
The Olive Tree Initiative respects all religious practices, holidays, and customs of its participants and the countries to which we travel. All participants have the opportunity to observe their specific religious practices. The Olive Tree Initiative embraces the religious diversity of the areas we travel to (e.g. the Middle East) and regards learning about it as part of the cultural and educational experience OTI seeks to provide.
10. No substance abuse.
Consumption of all illegal substances, or excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages, is forbidden. Should such misuse occur by a student, there will be one warning. If a similar incident occurs again, the student will be sent home immediately on the next reasonably available flight.
11. Liabilities and insurances.
Olive Tree Initiative participants must sign a Safety Instructions and Risk Acknowledgement contract, a Waiver of Liability, Assumption of Risk, and Indemnity Agreement as well as an health information document provided by the Olive Tree Initiative. Besides the mandatory university insurances, the Olive Tree Initiative will provide additional health and travel insurance for all participants.