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College of Arts & Sciences

Department of Anthropology Special Task Force: Implementing a Field Code of Conduct

Members: Jeff Winking, Heather Thakar, Kelly Graf 

1.1 Introduction

In many ways, fieldwork differentiates Anthropology from the other disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. The first fieldwork experience is often a defining event in an Anthropology student’s training, which first allows the student to put to practice what they learned in the classroom. However, fieldwork in Anthropology also involves unusual professional and social conditions. Such conditions often present additional challenges to maintaining welcoming and inclusive social environments and reporting interpersonal conflicts. These challenges include: 

  • Isolation and an inability to leave
  • Social proximity in both work and personal settings
  • Challenging conditions
  • Lack of communication with outside world
  • Foreign cultures
  • Gate keepers and extreme power differentials
  • Need for good outcomes

It is therefore important to establish a code of conduct and an agreed-upon set of best practices that go beyond those established in the traditional institutional setting.

1.2 Action Items

  1. Establish a baseline list of fieldwork members rights (for fieldwork participants as well as project directors/supervisors) and a baseline fieldwork code of conduct (a list of impermissible behaviors).
    1. Include with this a reporting plan that is sensitive to field challenges.
    2. Create informational cards that can be distributed to fieldwork members.
  2. Create a checklist for field project directors to ensure they are following best practices and training regimens to ensure an inclusive field experience in which all feel they have equal opportunity to succeed.
  3. Establish a yearly workshop that will provide training on these issues. Ensure that all field project directors/supervisors and participants attend training.
  4. Explore purchase of department satellite phones that field project directors/supervisors can check out so that all field projects can provide open access to communication devices for reporting purposes.

Fieldwork Member Rights

2.1  Introduction

The articulation of participant rights provides members with a better understanding of what they can expect from the institution and from individuals charged with running the field site. It also explains what those with institutional power are not allowed to do. Finally, it outlines explicit expectations for directors, so that they can better meet them. There is a great deal of variance in field conditions and expectations of fieldwork members across projects, and the articulation of rights below therefore includes inexact language at times to allow for flexibility. Because of this, it is even more important to clearly communicate to field members prior to the initiation of the project the conditions and limitations they can expect.

Fieldwork members may include the following: project director, supervisor, other senior personnel or collaborators, and student workers. The rights listed below are based on those presented by Woodgate et al. (2017).

2.2  Baseline Field Rights

Field project members have the right to:

1)    Be informed about the plans, nature of work, and risks involved with fieldwork, and receive necessary training from project directors/supervisors and appropriate university personnel.

2)    Express any concerns about safety or comfort.

3)    Safe accommodations (when provided) & social environment.

4)    Reasonable shelter1, equipment, & food (when provided).

5)    Not be left alone for long periods (e.g., overnight) at the field location if not desired.

6)    Have access to remote field safety equipment, including communication devices.

7)    Be evacuated at no cost if student experiences a medical emergency.2

8)    Be evacuated if student experiences Title VII or Title IX violation and wishes to return home.3

9)    Refuse to do activities they feel are unsafe.4

10)  Exercise all above without academic consequence. 

1Reasonable shelter is relative to specific contexts of fieldwork. In some contexts, conditions might not meet expectation of all participants, but these conditions are necessary to complete the field project. For example, a backcountry archaeological field project where participants are expected to provide their own tents for camping in wind, rain, or even snowy conditions. Another example might be conducting ethnographic fieldwork in a remote village community in which housing conditions may not have running water. Project directors will provide information regarding living conditions prior to departure so potential participants can make an informed decision to participate in the project.

2All programs should ensure all members have medical insurance that includes coverage for evacuation (e.g., CISI). Medical evacuations will be managed through these services.

3It may not be financially feasible for all projects to evacuate a team member for non-medical reasons, as medical insurance would not be available in such situations. In such cases, team members should be made aware of this limitation prior to entering the field. Furthermore, all efforts should be made to let the individual choose a reasonable solution that makes them feel safest, such as evacuation to a nearby town.

4Given that some activities might be a prerequisite for participation (e.g., helicopter rides to a site), project directors must inform students prior to departure of all potentially risky activities that will be required.

Fieldwork Code of Conduct

3.1 Introduction

Codes of conduct are designed to protect all members of a community from harm within that community’s spaces. Here, this includes field teams within the field environment. In many circumstances, we also include in this concept the members of local communities where field workers are guests. Codes function by educating members of expected behavior, establishing agreed-upon norms, deterring violations by creating consequences, and finally, deterring or removing individuals who cause harm (Aurora et al. 2018).

Codes of conduct function best when they outline unacceptable behaviors that 1) are not overly generalized, 2) actually have the potential to occur, 3) have established methods for reporting them, and 4) lead to visible actions when violations occur.

Project directors/supervisors may wish to include a project-specific code of conduct that includes important rules geared toward project-specific field conditions. We encourage directors/supervisors to follow the guidelines described below in drafting additional items. 

Most items in the Code of Conduct below are derived from Texas A&M Student Code of Conduct ( All students must follow the Student Code of Conduct while engaged in University-related activities; however, included below are those items most relevant to students entering the field. The list also includes items specific to the field experience that are not included in the Student Code of Conduct.

3.2 Baseline Fieldwork Code of Conduct

All members of a field project shall not:

1) Harass other project members or members of the local population. This includes:

  1. a) Sexual harassment: this includes quid pro quo harassment (“this for that”), in which sexual conduct is made a requirement for an individual’s advancement or is used as a basis for assessment, as well as hostile environment harassment, in which sexual conduct or language unreasonably interferes with another’s ability to participate in the project or community.
  2. b) Racial, ethnic, and other forms of identity harassment:  offensive language or behavior associated with one’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability status, religion, national origin, or other components of one’s identity, that unreasonably interferes with another’s ability to participate in the project or community.

2)  Abuse other project members or members of the local population. This includes:

  1. a) Sexual misconduct
  • Stalking: following and monitoring of another in a way that would cause a reasonable person fear or distress.
  • Assault: sexual contact or exploitation (e.g., recording) without consent.
  1. b) Physical abuse: attempt to cause injury, pain, or threaten to do so. This Includes hazing.

3)  Behave disrespectfully toward, break laws, or violate widely held norms of host community.

4)  Behave disrespectfully toward other members of the research team including collaborators who may be from other institutions or even countries.

5)  Abuse alcohol or other drugs. This includes the consumption of any illegal substances as well as the consumption of alcohol at unapproved times or to levels that unreasonably interfere with others’ ability to participate in the project or community.

6)  Bring unauthorized weapons. This includes but is not limited to hand guns, rifles, shotguns, compound bows, crossbows, etc.

7)  Bring unauthorized pets. This does not include service animals. Pets can interfere with field operations, put an undue burdens on all members, and interfere others’ their ability to participate in the project or community (e.g., members who might be allergic).

8)  Misuse project equipment. Project equipment should be treated with care and returned in original condition (providing normal wear). Any gross negligence or misuse of the equipment will lead to replacement at personal expense.

9)  Neglect field responsibilities. For a project to be successful, all members of the field crew need to work together. This includes participating in any household or camp chores, being present at meals, and contributing to healthy camp climate.

3.3  Reporting Violations of the Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct violations should be reported to the field project director/supervisor or a designated ombudsperson on the field team. We encourage project directors/supervisors to designate an ombudsperson to allow an alternative reporting pathway should the director or supervisor be involved in a violation, or if members do not feel comfortable reporting directly to the director.

If someone does not feel comfortable reporting the Code of Conduct violation to team leaders, they should have the opportunity to report the violation directly to their home institution. This requires open access to a communication device that is free of gatekeepers. We encourage all field projects to have such a device openly available to all team members.

University Contacts

  • 24/7 TAMU Study-Abroad Emergency Line: 001-979-255-6103
  • TAMU Title IX Office: 001-979-458-8407
    • submitted anonymously or with limited information may limit ability to follow up on an incident. However, confidentiality cannot be guaranteed for reports submitted through this site. State law determines confidentiality
  • Department of Anthropology: 001-979-845-5242


3.4 Responding to Code of Conduct Violations

Appropriate responses will be decided at all levels of reporting. The appropriate level of investigation for serious violations is the university level, including the Texas A&M Title IX Office, the Texas A&M Department of Civil Rights and Equity Investigations, and the Office of the Dean of Student Life. Note that if a Title IX violation becomes known to any project member who is an employee of Texas A&M University, as per Texas state law, that member is required to report the incident to the Texas A&M Title IX Office as soon as they can (see contact information above). However, because the field situation often involves isolation, an inability to immediately remove individuals from a situation, as well as communication challenges, project leadership may need to take immediate interim steps to ensure the safety of project members. This includes the following steps:

Step-by-step Procedure:

  • Ensure that everyone is safe, particularly the complainant.
  • Meet with other leadership, decide if anyone should recuse themselves, then as a team get the perspectives of others who were involved or may have witnessed violations.
  • Decide if the violation also violates university rules and/or Texas state law, and requires reporting to the university. Some violations (e.g., being dismissive of local norms), might only violate the project’s code of conduct. Inform complainant of any reporting decision at this level and that they have the right to report the violation themselves.
  • Regardless of the decision to report to the university, project leaders must decide on immediate and appropriate action to protect other members in the field. This includes but is not limited to:
    1. Nothing (if no action is necessary to protect members).
    2. Reminding the offender of Code of Conduct and reason for that code.
    3. Reassigning duties, which may include removing responsibilities or privileges.
    4. Sending offender home at offender’s expense
  • Ensure that complainant and other members of the team continue to feel safe given the decision and inquire as to whether anything else needs to take place for them to feel so.

3.5 Informational Card to be Distributed to All Team Members

card with the info on this page for printing

Make a Report

Report to the University If you need to report an emergency, call University Police at (979) 845-2345 or dial 911. For more information on Title IX options, interim measures, and sexual misconduct procedures, please contact the Department of Civil Rights and Equity Investigations at (979) 458-8407 or visit If you are unsure about reporting, ... Continue reading

Title IX at Texas A&M

Field Project Checklist 

4.1 Introduction

Before entering the field, please use this guide to ensure that best practices are being followed to ensure all project members have equal opportunity for success. Team leaders are responsible for providing the types of training they believe are necessary (e.g., those specific to environmental risks, host culture concerns, etc.)

 4.2 Field Project Director Checklist

Student preparation

  • All members have completed orientation covering plans, nature of work, and risks involved. 


  • All members have travel health insurance.
  • All members have received training on risks specific to this field site (e.g., diseases, wildlife, political unrest).
  • There exists an evacuation plan for medical emergencies and for Code of Conduct violations and this plan has been communicated to all members. 

Conduct, Field Culture, and Host Culture

  • All members have received training on the Project Member Rights and the Code of Conduct.
  • All members have received training on reporting procedures and have been given Field Behavior Guideline cards.
  • All members have received training related to the host culture.
  • If no cell service at field location, there is a communication device which will be openly available, and all members have received training on how to use it.

4.3 Project Member Checklist

Student preparation

  • Attend project orientation and review project plan, nature of work, and involved risks with other members of the project. 


  • Provide project director proof of travel health insurance.
  • Receive training on risks specific to project field site (e.g., diseases, wildlife, political unrest).
  • Receive evacuation plan for medical emergencies and Code of Conduct violations from project director/supervisor.

Conduct, Field Culture, and Host Culture

  • Receive training on the Project Member Rights and the Code of Conduct.
  • Receive training on reporting procedures and have been given Field Behavior Guideline cards.
  • Receive training related to the host culture.
  • Receive training on how to use project communication device(s).

Fieldwork Workshop

5.1 Introduction

Many of the challenges associated with maintaining a healthy climate during field projects are multidimensional, variable, and lack simple, perfect solutions. Thus, it is important to explore these challenges in face-to-face, group discussion forum that allows for variable perspectives to be brought to light. We proposal an annual workshop that achieves the following:

  1. Covers the Fieldwork Member Rights and Code of Conduct
  2. Presents the challenges particular to a field environment:
  • Isolation and an inability to leave
  • Social proximity in both work and personal settings
  • Challenging conditions
  • Lack of communication with outside world
  • Foreign cultures
  • Gate keepers and extreme power differentials
  • Need for good outcomes
  1. Holds a guided discussion of realistic field scenarios. (Examples below from Woodgate et al. 2017).
  • You are working with an unfamiliar team on an isolated field camp. During your night watches the rest of the group engages in sexual chatter and dirty jokes, the main instigator of the jokes being the person responsible for coordinating all access to the field. You ask the group to stop, and they laugh at you. You take the issue to the camp leader, who responds that you are silly to make a fuss.
  • You are an anthropologist, staying with a host family in a remote, foreign village. One night the wife of the family (with her baby) runs to your room for help as her husband is trying to beat them both.
  • You are Chief Scientist on a foreign ship, when a student from another institution reports to you she has been raped by one of the crew.
  • You are a new PhD student, in the field for the first time with your PhD advisor. The rest of the group are very friendly with each other. As you are showing your advisor data on your computer, he repeatedly puts his arm around you.
  • You are your institution’s lead (but not Chief Scientist) on an international cruise. You notice that the ship’s technicians are continually belittling your technician, either behind her back or to her face, ignoring her suggestions on how to deploy your moorings.
  • You are sending a student to take samples on a remote field camp. In a rare text message back to your home institution, the student reports that one of the contractors is getting repeatedly drunk and physically threatening them. That contractor holds access to the only 2-way radio in the camp.
  • You are working in a foreign culture as the only member of your group. Your key informant propositions you.

Procurement of Departmental Satellite Phones that Can Be Checked Out 

5.1 Introduction

We propose that the Department of Anthropology procure a minimum of 2 satellite phone devices that can be checked out by field teams. Field project directors will be responsible for purchasing pre-paid minute packages for their trips. The phones should be openly available to all project members (i.e., without gatekeepers) for reporting purposes.

Here is an example of a satellite phone that could be purchased: Satellite Phone


Woodgate, Rebecca, Ben Fitzhugh, Stephanie Harrington, Trina Litchendorf, Hope St John, Roger Buick, Carolyn Friedman, Daniel Brencic, Baishakhi Basu, Rachel Lazzar, and Eric Boget. 2017. Preventing Harassment in Fieldwork Situations Report from the University of Washington’s Respect and Equality in Fieldwork (REIF) 2017 Committee. Preventing Harassment in Field Work

Aurora, Valerie, Mary Gardiner. 2019. How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports.

Texas A&M University Student Rules: Student Rule 24. Student Conduct Code. 2019.

Texas A&M University Student Rules: Student Rule 31. Racial and Ethnic Harassment. 2019.