Student in Israel advised to return

Becky Bowman

Administrators sent a letter Thursday evening to Northwestern’s only student studying abroad in Israel this year, advising the student that they would prefer, but are not requiring her, to return to the United States due to the escalating violence in the Middle East.

The letter comes in response to a U.S. State Department travel warning, issued Tuesday, urging U.S. citizens to return from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said Bill Anthony, director of NU’s Study Abroad Office. Administrators at the 10-campus University of California system acted this week to recall students from study abroad programs in Israel.

The State Department issued its travel warning in reaction to Israel’s fiercest offensive in the state’s 18-month conflict with neighboring Palestinians, saying that “the potential for further terrorist acts remains high.”

NU administrators did not feel the need to recall the student as other universities have done, Anthony said.

“We’re not talking about evacuating the student,” he said. “We’re asking her to review the process, to consider coming home. It’s a tough call. It seemed appropriate given the conditions to let the student and the student’s family decide what to do. We did not feel that we had the right to force the student to return.”

Anthony said he has communicated through e-mail with the student, whose name he would not disclose, after she began her program in August, asking her if she felt safe and what impact the situation has had on her courses. He also has communicated with her mother, who received a copy of the office’s letter.

The student most recently indicated that she did not intend to leave the country, he said. In e-mails written in January and February, she wrote of the safety measures being taken by Hebrew University, where she is studying at the Rothberg International School in Jerusalem, including posting security monitors at the entrances to her dorm, Anthony said.

Administrators will continue to monitor the situation and make any changes necessary to ensure the safety of the student, Anthony said.

But the decision of whether the student should leave the program in Israel involves more than safety.

If the student returns to NU too late in the quarter, for example, she may lose the chance to complete courses for Spring Quarter, Anthony said. If the student returns by the middle of next week, however, administrators will work with her to arrange for courses to be taken, Anthony said.

Medill sophomore Beth Shayne, who decided last summer not to pursue her own hopes of studying in Israel, said she agreed with the university’s decision to leave the choice up to the student.

“Basically, it is her right and her prerogative, and I don’t see any reason why the administration should require her to come home any more than the administration should (say no) if a student said that they were going to transfer to a university in Jerusalem,” she said.

But Shayne said that she would return home if faced with the decision.

“If I was in her place, there’s no way I would still be there,” she said.

Meredith Kesner, who will apply to study in Israel during Fall Quarter, also said she agreed with the administration’s decision.

“Everyone I know there is on programs, and they are really careful and very limiting right now about what they can do, and where they can go,” said Kesner, a Medill sophomore. “I don’t really worry about them, unless I know they are going to go out or they are going to be somewhere in downtown Jerusalem.”

Kesner said the Study Abroad Office discouraged her from applying to a program in Israel and asked her to consider programs in London, Europe or Australia. She said that although she was disappointed at the time, she now can see reason for their concern.

“At the point where the situation is now with the travel warning, I think it’s understandable,” she said.