Officials who oversee Kansas University’s study abroad program are considering a policy that would allow students to study in countries with State Department travel warnings, if a committee of KU officials deems it to be safe.
Current KU policy forbids any undergraduate students from studying in any country with a State Department travel warning.
Sue Lorenz, director of KU’s study abroad program, said that some graduate students and faculty members can apply for exemptions from the policy through KU’s Office of International Programs to pursue their research.
The move could give KU the flexibility to allow students to study abroad in situations where the risk to their safety remains minimal, despite travel warnings.
“When there was (a tsunami) that was located in Japan, we had a student in the far west of Japan that probably wasn’t very close to the action at all,” said Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, associate vice provost for international programs.
Also, a warning regarding drug violence in Mexico has caused KU to suspend its long-standing arrangement with a university in Puebla, a city far south of much of the violence.
Lorenz said the review committee would potentially include KU administrators, one or more people who could offer legal counsel, someone from the international programs office and someone from the office of study abroad.
The committee might also get advice from faculty and staff who have expertise in the areas under consideration, Lorenz said.
KU’s current policy is in place at many other public institutions, Lorenz said, but many private institutions have regulations that aren’t as restrictive.
KU’s new committee and new policy could be in place by the spring 2012 semester.
“We needed to take a look at this policy,” Gronbeck-Tedesco said, and review the kinds of policies that could expand available options while still ensuring the safety of KU students studying abroad.