Travel Policy Problematic
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012 02:10
The safety of students who are studying abroad should never be taken lightly, but Georgetown’s new international travel policy lacks clarity and risks adding a layer of bureaucratic overprotection that could inhibit the learning experience — particularly for students whose travels would not put them in any sort of foreseeable danger.
Katherine Bellows, executive director of the Office of International Programs, said in an interview that she is not certain whether the new policy would require students studying in Europe, for example, to register a trip with Georgetown before traveling throughout the continent and added that she is waiting for clarification from university council.
This is no minor exception to the rule, which was announced Tuesday — it’s a critical distinction that could strike directly at the experience of those studying abroad. For a policy that was years in the making, it’s troubling that every legal wrinkle has not been ironed out and made available to the public.
The new policy mandates that all undergraduate students request approval for any type of travel, whether or not they are going to a country for which the State Department has issued a travel warning. Student travel requests will also have to be reviewed by a travel committee and attend a safety and security orientation. This kind of bureaucracy prevents the kind of spontaneous adventuring that is often a signature aspect of the study abroad experience. It seems excessive to require that students get approval from multiple university agencies in order to spend a weekend in Switzerland.
Bellows did underscore OIP’s overarching aim of facilitating travel and keeping students safe, and we agree that the policy has respectable motivations. Some countries pose threats to travelers, and registration allows the university to protect students who have dangerous travel plans. But the university must continue to work to make international travel rules clear and targeted directly at those who truly are going into harm’s way.