Carleton Addresses Precautionary Measures for Students in Study Abroad Programs

March 21, 2003

As 77 Carleton College students prepare to embark on spring off-campus study programs, the College is reiterating precautionary measures for travel during a time of war.

The College is sponsoring three off-campus studies programs this spring. The first, a political economics seminar in Beijing led by Roy Grow, the Frank, B. Kellogg Professor of International Relations, was scheduled to depart from Minnesota on Monday, March 17. Departure has been delayed until Sunday, March 23, because the program had included travel to Hanoi, Vietnam, a site included in a Centers for Disease Control travel advisory because of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The program will now travel only to Bangkok, Thailand and Beijing.

A French seminar led by Éva Pófsay, associate professor of French, will meet in Paris on Saturday, March 29, and a Russian seminar led by Diane Nemec-Ignashev, professor of Russian, will meet in Moscow on Thursday, March 27. Several students also are participating in programs led by other off-campus study providers.

The off-campus studies staff, Helena Kaufman and Margit Johnson, and an administrative team including Dean of Students Mark Govoni and Associate Dean of the College Elizabeth Ciner are using all of their resources to continually assess each situation. They use numerous sources of information, including on-site advisors, physicians, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the State Department, travel agents, and other program providers, as they make decisions.

This team has met regularly in recent months to rehearse a number of scenarios, and has established a communication strategy to stay in touch with faculty directors and they with their students. They have contingency plans for delaying or moving programs, if needed, or bringing students home or back to campus.

"Safety is paramount in our decision making," said Johnson. "The academic program can always be altered to accommodate safety."

All student participants have attended pre-departure meetings with their program director to discuss safe travel and risk avoidance. The precautions outlined, such as avoiding congregating in tourist hangouts and not dressing in obviously American clothing, help students to blend in and be sensitive to each country's culture.

The off-campus studies staff sent a letter to parents of student participants emphasizing the importance of communications plans in case of an emergency. It recommended that students and parents make their own contingency plan, and that at least one parent have a passport in case traveling to the student's study site was necessary.

According to Johnson, applications for off-campus study held steady for this term. "Students are aware of the situation and are concerned, as are their parents," she said. "But given our contingency planning, students are willing to proceed. Now, as never before, we need young people who understand the world community and our country's place in it."