The University of California doesn’t normally send students and faculty to countries on the State Department’s travel warning list – but overwhelming interest has led both the system and Davis to give students that opportunity – even in light of the recent violence.
“We are offering a four week program through the UC Davis Summer Abroad Program and both a semester and year long program through the UC Education Abroad Program,” said Diane Adams, associate director of UC Davis‘ Education Abroad Center.
Both programs plan to continue, despite the region’s recent violence. Duke, Rutgers and the University of Pennsylvania recently made headlines by pulling the plug on their plans to send students to Israel.
Eric Schroeder, faculty director of UC Davis Summer Abroad said they have been taking extraordinary, but very necessary measures in student safety.
“The students will live in what is essentially a gated compound, and we’ll be meeting with the Israeli consulate in the next few weeks to talk about safety on field trips,” he said.
University of California spokesperson Chris Harrington said the system will continue to monitor the situation as they implement the program.
“We’ve put in place a number of tools to allow us to constantly monitor the situation on the ground, not only in Israel but around the world in all of our locations where students and staff might be traveling or studying at a given time,” he said. Harrington declined to elaborate on the nature of the tools due to security concerns.
Schroeder said they had already put the Israel program in the brochure and on the website before the violence made them sit back and assess things.
“Our committee reconvened last Friday, and the timing was good because hostilities had settled down at the beginning of the week,” he said.
Separate from the UC’s program, Davis‘ students will spend four weeks at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, just outside of Tel-Aviv. Three weeks will be spent in school, while the fourth is an extended field trip.
The UC’s program runs for either a semester or a year, and is nearing reinstatement.
“The program is still on track, and we are continuing ongoing discussions regarding the final details for the program with Hebrew University,” Harrington said.
When countries show up on the State Department’s travel warning list, the UC usually either cancels programs or won’t consider the country for new ones.
Three years ago, a terrorist attack in Indonesia forced an evolution and ecology program to relocate to Singapore.
“That was a very unusual, but very fortunate situation,” Schroeder said.
The more common outcome for these situations is what happened two years ago to a program in Sri Lanka that was cancelled when the State Department added the country to it’s warning list, Schroeder said.
“We had to cancel, and it was even in the brochure already,” he said.
When UC won’t travel to a country, some students choose to go through third-party providers – private, for-profit companies that exist to send students overseas.
That’s how UC Davis students have gone to Israel in the last 10 years, Schroeder said. In recent years, UC Davis officials decided they wanted students to stay within their education system and created its own program.
“With UC Davis courses taught by UC Davis professors, we think we do something very unique using a very distinguished member of our own faculty who has great contacts there, in Ze’ev Maoz,” he said. “We believe it’s as good as or better than third party ways.“
Schroeder said UC Davis believes the fact that things have quieted down is reason for optimism that the program will run this summer.
“We think the situation is under control, and that the situation is more stable now than it has been the past few months, and we’ve got measures in place for student safety,” he said. “My concern at the moment is that students will be dissuaded and not sign up for the course or will wait too long observing the situation and miss the mid-April enrollment deadline.”
MIKE DORSEY can be reached at email@example.com.