The University of California system has decided to cut short its education abroad program in Israel due to increasing security and safety issues for students – and it’s a damn shame. While concern for the welfare of students is an acceptable excuse, it still infringes on the goal many students have to absorb as much as possible from another culture.
Under contract, the University gives itself the ability to alter its program in any way it sees fit, as long as it offers a comparable program for those affected. While UC has yet to deliver anything tangible, they claim that a solid plan is in the works. This is a nice gesture for those students who do fear for their safety enough to turn home. However, any replacement they do manage to come up would never adequately compensate for the lost experience and cultural influence students receive from study abroad in the cradle of civilization.
Small portions of the students realize this and have decided to continue their studies in Israel despite UC and government warnings – and they have every right to. Students who are so dedicated to the advancement of knowledge that they’re willing to put their lives on the line need support, even for actions many deem foolish.
The level of violence has steadily increased in the Middle East since Sept. 11, and the University should have foreseen the possible closure of the program. A vague outline of the alternatives offered for returning doesn’t do much to console those who are torn between a life-altering experience and their personal safety.
The decision to recall is a way for the University to cover its massive, bureaucratic ass only from a public relations standpoint. Passing the decision to recall to the State Department is a lazy move. Students sign a contract expressly stating that the UC is not liable for injury or death as a result of war or war-like activities in the host country. Anyone traveling to a battle zone knows full well what they’re getting into, and they’re well aware that no one is responsible for the actions except themselves.
The University name may get a black eye from it, but black eyes heal quite nicely.
For those students who do remain and see out the rest of their studies in Israel, the University should offer them some credit. The pursuit of knowledge at all cost is noble, even if it borders on madness. To deny credit to any student who completes what would be the rest of the program contradicts the purpose of education and thought.
If the students want to come home, then they should feel good knowing that they’ll be accepted with open arms. However, don’t punish those who want to stay for an educational experience they’ll never have another chance at in all eternity.