Since Sept. 11, 2001, Georgetown University, along with other universities nationwide, has increased emergency response plans for students studying abroad. With security risks at an all-time high as a result of the potential war against Iraq, Georgetown has implemented a number of steps to ensure student safety while studying abroad as well as for international students studying here.

“Security is definitely a priority more now than before 9-11,” Director of the Office International Programs Dr. ichael J. Vande Berg said.

To ensure that students are as safe and informed as possible, OIP hosts a pre-departure orientation for students. During this program, students are informed about risky conditions abroad and how they differ from site to site, where there are specific security issues. Vande Berg said that students are told to monitor the U.S. State Department Web site, which disseminates information for U.S. citizens in other countries and has developed Consular information sheets with more information pertinent to certain regions of countries.

OIP also advises students not to go to high security risk areas such as Israel, Zimbabwe and Indonesia. “Conditions [in these places] are such that it would not be appropriate for us to send students there. We have formal agreements [not to] and we don’t engage in sending students to those places,” Vande Berg said.

These measures were in place prior to Sept. 11, however, and the university has since taken additional measures to increase student security.

Vande Berg said that after Sept. 11 President DeGioia convened a special committee called the Emergency Response Team. It is comprised of personnel from various sectors of the university community, ranging from administrators to security persons. It met over the past year, constructed an emergency plan, as well as 14 specific Emergency Support Teams (EST), one of which Vande Berg chairs, the International Affairs Emergency Support Team.

Vande Berg claims the plan is extremely effective. “There are no big ticket items that we aren’t doing. We work closely with people abroad to give students information. Still, it is also the responsibility of individual students to attend to their own heath, safety and security.”

That is exactly what Lindsay Moilanen (SFS ’05) said she is planning to do when she studies in Prague next spring. “I’m very excited to have the opportunity to study in a foreign country and travel in Europe,” she said. Moilanen is not nervous, but rather is confident that she will be safe when she goes abroad, just as she feels safe in D.C.

Vande Berg points out that 51 percent of Georgetown students study abroad and that it is a worthwhile experience, even with the risks. “There are risks in any place. But what’s important is what you are doing to mitigate those risks. Georgetown works to mitigate those risks.”

These risks are a concern for all universities that sponsor a study abroad program, according to a Jan. 24 Washington Post article. Senior Vice President for Security Services Jim Francis at Kroll, Inc., a global risk-management company, said that his company’s security consulting business for universities has doubled in the past 18 months.

This is not only in the wake of terrorism, but in the aftermath of a major incident in which a St. Mary’s College student was raped at gunpoint in Guatemala after armed bandits forced her bus off of the road. She, along with two other students, sued St. ary’s claiming the professors planning the trip were negligent after there had been a similar bus attack six months earlier where five female tourists were raped at gunpoint. College officials dispute the allegations but the lawsuit was settled for $195,000.

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