Study abroad tragedies present challenges for administrators
- Three students from American universities were killed in a terrorist attack in Bangladesh last week while on international study trips — two from Emory University and one from the University of California at Berkeley.
- A University of Wisconsin freshman was found dead in Rome last week, and his death is being investigated as a crime.
- Parents of students who have died or have been killed while on international study have founded ‘Protect Students Abroad,’ and are pushing for federal intervention in providing information and protections for international student travel.
The response to student death while on international travel is dramatically different than on-campus incidents. Domestically, college leaders can rely upon campus safety officials and partnerships with local police to get information, and can monitor the tenor of students on social media for additional insight into details and how to craft messaging.
Internationally, there are few guidelines for countries to share information quickly with colleges and universities in the event something happens, leaving the institution facing angry parents and mourning students with questions that may be impossible to answer.
Colleges must remain in constant contact with families with information they receive, and working with them to publicize or to refrain from publicizing certain details that may emerge. The messages must always be underscored by school policies on travel, why certain countries and travel programs are considered and accepted, partnerships with the State Department for monitoring and approval, and the ways in which students are educated about potential dangers in traveling to other countries.