Penn Abroad Guidelines on Undergraduate Study Abroad in Countries under a Travel Warning
July 17, 2012,
Volume 59, No. 01
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Penn Abroad announces the following guidelines for undergraduate student participation in Penn Abroad programs in high-risk locations, including countries under a US Department of State Travel Warning or Alert. These guidelines are in effect as of July 17, 2012 and have been reviewed and approved by the Council of Undergraduate Deans, the Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, the Vice Provost for Education, the Office of the General Counsel, and the Office of Risk Management. For additional information, please visit the Penn Abroad website (http://sa.oip.upenn.edu/) or contact Barbara Gorka, director of Penn Abroad (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Penn Abroad consults with the Committee on International Travel Risk Assessment (CITRA) to assess programs in high-risk locations, including those for which a Travel Warning or Travel Alert has been issued by the US Department of State. To assist them in evaluating a study abroad program in a particular country or region, Penn Abroad and CITRA consult Penn’s faculty and administrative offices as well as external resources, including, but not limited to, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), International SOS, local governments, and local contacts/staff on site.
CITRA members include the Director and Associate Director of Penn Abroad, the Executive Director of Global Initiatives, the International Risk Manager, the Executive Director of Global Support Services, and invited experts from the faculty and administration, as appropriate.
Penn Abroad and CITRA make recommendations for undergraduate student participation on Penn Abroad’s approved programs based on the following guidelines. Note that even though the US Department of State references US citizens in its warnings and alerts, these guidelines apply to Penn students of all nationalities. Penn’s decisions are guided primarily by consideration for the health, safety and security of students.
The US Department of State (http://travel.state.gov/) provides travel information on all countries and, as necessary, will issue a Travel Warning or Travel Alert under certain conditions:
Travel warnings: “issued to describe long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable.” Current Travel Warnings can be found at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.htm
Travel alerts: “issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions, generally within a particular country that pose imminent risks to the security of US citizens. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist attacks, election-related demonstrations or violence…are examples of conditions that might generate a travel alert.” Current Travel Alerts can be found at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_1766.html
Not all travel warnings or alerts are of the same level of severity. Some recommend that travelers defer travel to the entire country and authorize the departure of dependents of consular personnel. Others reflect dangers or risks in a specific region of the country. Some warnings simply highlight the risks and urge travelers to take prudent security measures. For this reason, recommendations regarding undergraduate student participation on a study abroad program in a country or region under a Travel Warning or Alert take into account the specific nature of the warning or alert, as well as the proposed student activities and other related circumstances.
Category 1: Penn will typically suspend or cancel undergraduate student participation in a Penn-approved study abroad program if the US Department of State issues a strong country-wide Travel Warning. These warnings tend to include statements that:
- order departure of US dependents and non-emergency personnel;
- recommend that any US citizens remaining in the country should depart;
- urge (warn) US citizens to (carefully) weigh the necessity of (all) travel to the country;
- urge US citizens to exercise extreme caution;
- (strongly) warn US citizens against (all) travel to the country;
- warn (urge) US citizens to defer (all) (non-essential) travel to the country;
- warn that the US Department of State is not able to provide routine consular services.
No single statement will automatically warrant suspension or cancellation. Further, factors other than the existence of a Travel Warning may justify suspension or cancellation of student participation in a program. Prior to making a determination, Penn Abroad and CITRA will consult with appropriate Penn faculty and administrative offices as well as external resources. The entire warning, as well as information gathered from other sources, will be taken into consideration.
When the US Department of State uses statements such as those listed above but only for a specific region within the country (and not the entire country), Penn will typically suspend or cancel undergraduate student participation in a Penn-approved program that is located within that region and it may suspend or cancel undergraduate student participation in programs in surrounding or other regions.
For programs in countries or regions in this category:
- Students are not able to open an application.
- If it is after students have been accepted but before they depart, Penn may suspend or cancel approval for participation.
- If students are already on site, Penn may suspend or cancel participation and ask that the affected students leave the country.
Category 2: When the US Department of State Travel Warning is less strong, Penn may approve undergraduate student participation in a Penn-approved program but will generally advise the use of caution and may place conditions on travel to as well as within the country. Less strong warnings tend to include statements that:
- warn US citizens of the (risks, danger, or potential risk or danger) of travel to the country;
- urge US citizens to evaluate carefully their security and safety before traveling to the country;
- warn (caution) US citizens to consider (carefully) the risks of travel to the country;
- urge US citizens to exercise caution; or
- caution US citizens to take prudent security measures.
Travel Warnings are updated on a regular basis. If a Travel Warning becomes more severe while students are on site, Penn may suspend or cancel undergraduate student participation in a study abroad program and ask students to leave the country.
Category 3: When the US Department of State issues a Travel Alert, Penn makes decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Travel Alerts tend to expire on a pre-specified date, but may be extended. If an Alert becomes more severe while students are on site, or if the Travel Alert is elevated to a Travel Warning, Penn may suspend or cancel undergraduate student participation in a study abroad program and ask students to leave the country.
Acknowledgement of Risks and Release: Students who have been approved to study on programs in countries under a Travel Warning will be required to sign an Acknowledgement of Risks and Release to acknowledge the risks associated with their travel, and their parents or guardians will be asked to execute a Parental Acknowledgement.
Request for Reconsideration: Penn undergraduates who wish to study abroad despite Penn’s decision may submit a request for reconsideration. The request should include a statement that details the academic rationale for study in that location and why the student believes the risks are not excessive. The student may also provide supporting documentation (e.g., letters of support from faculty, information from the host university). CITRA will review requests as they arrive, and will strive to make a decision within two weeks. The decision of the committee is considered final.
—Barbara Gorka, Director, Penn Abroad