UMS Safe & Inclusive Work Environment Plan

EFFECTIVE 3/30/2023

The University of Maine System is committed to providing a safe environment which promotes the dignity and worth of each member of the community. In complying with the letter and spirit of applicable laws and in pursuing its own goals of diversity, the University does not discriminate on the basis of sex in employment, education, and all other programs and activities. UMS, inclusive of all its campuses and faculties, does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, age, disability, status as a veteran, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, transgender status, gender identity, gender expression, or any other category protected by applicable law, in the administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, employment, or other school administered programs. For this reason, the University will not tolerate sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, or retaliation in any form. All conduct of this nature is considered a violation of policy.

It is National Science Foundation (NSF) policy “to foster safe and harassment-free environment wherever science is conducted.” (NSF 2023 PAPPG II-E.9) NSF’s policy “recognizes that a community effort is essential to eliminate sexual and other forms of harassment in science and to build inclusive scientific climates where people can learn, grow, and thrive.” Accordingly, for each proposal that proposes to conduct research off-campus or off site, NSF requires a certification from the AOR that the proposing organization has a plan in place for said proposal that describes how the following types of behavior will be addressed:

  • Abuse of any person, including, but not limited to, harassment, stalking, bullying, or hazing of any kind, whether the behavior is carried out verbally, physically, electronically, or in written form; or
  • Conduct that is unwelcome, offensive, indecent, obscene, or disorderly.

NSF requires the plan to identify steps the proposing organization will take to nurture an inclusive off-campus or off-site working environment, e.g., trainings; processes to establish shared team definitions of roles, responsibilities, and cultures, e.g., codes of conduct; and field support, such as mentor/mentee support mechanisms, regular check-ins, and/or developmental events. The plan should also consider communications within the team and to the organization, minimizing singular points within the communications pathway (e.g., a single person overseeing access to a single satellite phone), and any special circumstances such as the involvement of multiple organizations or the presence of third parties in the working environment. The process or method for making incident reports as well as how any reports received will be resolved should also be accounted for.

NSF requires this plan to be disseminated to individuals participating in the off-campus or off-site research prior to departure. The plans do not need to be submitted to NSF for review, unless requested.

NSF defines “off-campus or off-site research” as “data/information/samples being collected off-campus or off-site, such fieldwork on research vessels and aircraft.”

Key Policies and Procedures

 All University employees are required by University policy to complete the mandatory UMS Academy training, including but not limited to Title IX Training, Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training, and Basic Safety Training. More information can be found here. The University meets NSF requirements by using the policies and procedures outlined below.

Reporting a Concern

Report a concern here: Equal Opportunity Complaint Procedure – University of Maine System.

You can also report a concern by contacting:

University of Maine System Coordinator of Title IX Services: Elizabeth Lavoie

Phone: 207-581-5866


More information


PI is responsible for:

  • Creating a plan for a safe and inclusive working environment for off-campus or off-site research.
  • Disseminating said plan to all participants prior to departure.
  • Updating said plan whenever necessary and disseminating updated plan to all participants.
  • Keeping all plans and updated plans on file.
  • If applicable, complete and submit a Fieldwork Safety Plan.

ORA is responsible for:

  • Ensuring a plan is in place prior to submission.

Departments are encouraged to:

  • Review and approve plans when signing off on proposals.
  • Ensuring PIs adhere to plans.

Project-Specific Plan Template


  • What does “off-campus” or “off-site” mean? If I’m housed in a leased building, does this new requirement apply to me? Or if this is only a day trip?
    • The intent of this requirement is to provide guidance and protection for participants when they do not have ready access to the on-campus in-person resources they normally do. If your participants continue to have such access, no plan is needed. If participants are sufficiently distant from campus such that access to these resources is more limited than they would be if they were on campus, then a plan is needed. Work from home by an individual employee would not, for the purpose of this policy, be considered “off-campus” or “off-site”.
    • “Day trips” or excursions (e.g., to public places, schools, museums, a mall) where participants are returning without an overnight stay would not normally require a plan, but a plan should be created if the nature of the off-campus research activity is likely to create a larger-than-normal opportunity for harassment to occur (e.g., studies looking at sexual activities, incarcerated individuals, prior knowledge of harassment in the same setting, etc.). If there is any doubt, create a plan.
    • Attendance or presentation of research results at a conference does not require a plan; if participants will also engage in the conduct of research activities while attending a conference, a plan would be required.
  • What does “research activities” mean? I don’t do research; my NSF work is considered an “other sponsored activity”.
    • This new requirement applies only to research activities. NSF has defined off-campus or off-site research for the purpose of these requirements as “data/information/samples being collected off-campus or off-site, such as fieldwork or research activities on vessels and aircraft.” PIs are responsible for determining whether the requirement applies to their project or to certain activities on their project. If there happens to be a research component on an award that is characterized as an “other sponsored activity”, then the requirement would apply only to that research component.
  • I forgot to send a plan to one or more participants before we left; what do I do now?
    • If the off-site research is still taking place, send the plan now to the participant(s). If the off-site research is over, send an email to your ORA contact explaining the circumstances. ORA staff will confer with the PI on appropriate next steps (NSF has not identified what corrective actions should be taken, but most likely it will involve an uninvolved third party checking with the participant to ascertain whether there were any issues that arose while off-campus that made the participant feel unsafe or needed reporting.)
  • Who counts as a “Participant”? does this include subrecipient personnel? Other faculty working at the off-campus location with the PI?
    • It includes all University of Maine participants: employees, students, volunteers, and others working under University of Maine’s direction (which might include contractors). For subrecipient personnel, their own institution should have issued a plan for the off-site activity (PIs should verify with the PI of the subrecipient organization that this has occurred.) University of Maine’s plan may be shared and adapted for use by the subrecipient. Typically, a University of Maine PI will only assume responsibility for University of Maine participants but there may be cases where guests or participants from other entities may need to use University of Maine’s plan. This is allowed but places a special administrative burden on the University of Maine’s PI as these participants will not already be familiar with University of Maine policies or practices, and special coordination across entities may be needed. It is a good idea to confer with ORA well in advance of the off-site research should this be applicable so that special arrangements can be created.
  • Is it possible to name a backup point of contact listed on the form?
    • Yes, in fact it is advisable to have a primary and a secondary point of contact available. The Principle Investigator must be listed on the form in the “PI” box but may also be listed as the primary point of contact, or they may delegate the primary point of contact responsibility to another individual who is present at the off-campus location. Make sure and include the cell phone and email of the alternative contact.
  • What should happen if the person doing the alleged misconduct is the named point of contact?
    • As described above, it is helpful to list contact information for two individuals (e.g., the PI and a second delegated person) so that there is a local second point-of-contact readily available. Assuming there is internet or cell phone service, the participant can also use one of the other reporting mechanisms to contact their supervisor or a University official responsible for handling misconduct concerns. If the participant is unable or unwilling to notify the primary point of contact and the standard reporting options are not available, the participant may defer reporting until access is available (if they feel it is safe to do so), or approach another senior person on the off-campus team (whether or not from University of Maine) to assist them in appropriate next steps.
  • I am the PI and I do have special off-site circumstances. What are my options?
    • PIs may devise options they believe are appropriate to the circumstances, but some reasonable options to certain known circumstances might include the following;
      • Cultural norms differ in the location where the off-campus research will take place. PIs may wish to offer a “pre-departure” briefing for participants explaining cultural norms in the off-site location (physical or touching norms, verbal styles, etc.) PIs can offer alternatives to mitigate concerns arising from cultural differences (e.g., offering to connect only in a group setting, or pairing participants so that there is less opportunity for misunderstanding.)
      • In advance of departure, PIs may wish to remind participants that they are personally available to listen to any concerns that participants may have about the off-campus research activity.
      • If the off-campus research site offers terrain, temperature, visual, auditory, or other challenges, offer to meet ahead of time with participants to discuss any special concerns they may have or accommodations they may need in order to fully participate.
      • The PI may wish to engage in regular “check-ins” with off-campus participants to ascertain whether there is anything that is impacting their full enjoyment about the off-campus research experience (physical or cultural barriers, behavior challenges, etc.).
      • Particularly in remote locations, physical circumstances may limit the ability for a participant to be separated from an individual alleged to have participated in misbehavior. Whenever possible, the participant and the individual allegedly engaging in misbehavior should be separated as completely as possible. With the participant’s concurrence, consider assigning a “buddy” to help that participant feel safe as well as reduce the likelihood of a possible recurrence – particularly when complete physical separation is not feasible.
      • There is only a single satellite phone (or equivalent) available for contact outside the group. Consider having a second phone available and controlled by a different individual or ask someone from another group or from the entity being visited if participants can also approach them should need arise for a confidential call to be placed. Consider budgeting for a second phone if that is what is needed to ensure alternate access can be available. Notify participants of their options accordingly.
    • What should happen if the person doing the alleged misconduct is a participant from another entity?
      • Follow the same procedure for Reporting a concern that you would follow should the person doing the alleged misconduct be associated with the University of Maine.
    • What should happen if you are not sure if the alleged misconduct qualifies as Equal Opportunity harassment or Title IX harassment?
      • Follow the same procedure for Reporting a concern and the Equal Opportunity Office and Title IX Coordinator will evaluate the situation and triage to the appropriate person for reporting and follow up.