UC recalls EAP students from Israel

    In light of escalating violence in the Middle East, seven UCSD students currently studying abroad in Israel have been called back to the United States, the University of California Office of the President announced on Tuesday.

    There are 27 UC students studying in Israel this semester. The UC Education Abroad Program has asked that the students’ names not be released.

    “”The No. 1 priority has always been [students’] safety,”” said UC spokesperson Hanan Eisenman.

    All the students have been contacted by the university and asked to return to the United States.

    UCOP will make travel arrangements for the students, Eisenman said, ranging from purchasing airline tickets and packing, to giving financial assistance to those in need.

    “”We are encouraging them to depart as soon as is feasible,”” Eisenman said.

    EAP’s programs in Israel will be officially suspended as of April 11.

    This means that students may return to the United States by this date and, through EAP, complete independent study under advisement from their host institution. Students choosing this option will continue to receive financial aid and insurance as previously arranged.

    Alternately, students may elect to remain in Israel. In that case, they would be responsible for enrolling themselves directly in their host university and then working with their deans and provosts to be readmitted to the University of California and to earn transfer credit for coursework completed in Israel.

    “”We understand this is an inconvenience, but we’ll do everything possible to make it as smooth as possible,”” Eisenman said.

    Eisenman was unable to say whether all of the students would return to the United States.

    “”I know some will come back,”” he said. “”It may be that some will stay.””

    He stressed that no UC student has ever been in danger in Israel, and all are in fact “”safe and sound.””

    EAP director John Markham has been monitoring the situation in Israel closely, and traveled there last April to decide whether this year’s programs should go ahead.

    At that point, Markham said, he felt the safety measures then in place were adequate and students were made aware of the situation into which they were headed.

    UCSD’s Programs Abroad Office and EAP director Kim Burton said that all students traveling abroad attend both a general information session with safety information and travel tips, and a country-specific session.

    The unrest in Israel was “”most definitely taken very seriously,”” Burton said, and a special orientation was held for UC students headed there.

    Markham met face to face with most students going to Israel, and spoke with a few others over the phone.

    “”We told them we would share everything we know and, as adults, they could make their own decisions,”” he said.

    Students who were apprehensive or fearful after being apprised of the rigorous safety measures required by EAP were encouraged not to attend. Several students elected not to go after attending the orientation.

    Some restrictions were requirements, such as not traveling to the West Bank, Gaza Strip or certain areas of Jerusalem; some strong advice, like not riding buses or going to cafes or marketplaces. Students signed a waiver stating they understood the risks inherent in going to Israel and that violating safety rules could lead to dismissal.

    “”We couldn’t guarantee that this would be safe,”” Markham said. “”Absolute safety isn’t in Los Angeles, San Diego, anywhere.””

    He did say that students in Israel have been “”visibly affected”” by the growing violence.

    Markham cited recent suicide bombings as the cause of the decision to recall students.

    “”The whole combination of events is spinning out of control,”” he said. “”There was hope that the peace process would go ahead with the visits of [General Anthony] Zinni and [Vice President Dick] Cheney, but instead it went the opposite direction.””

    The programs in Israel have also been suspended for the fall semester, pending an improvement in Israel, Eisenman said. Markham said the decision to reinstate the programs will be a complex one, saying, “”It will be a judgment call: Has violence subsided, is the peace process moving forward so that students would be safe?””

    In the past, unrest abroad has led to UC students being called back to the United States. The Israel programs were suspended during the Gulf War, Eisenman said, “”when scud missiles were coming down on Israel.””

    Also, students were called back from China in the wake of the Tiananman Square confrontations, and programs in India were recently suspended because of increasing hostility between India and Pakistan.

    Eisenman would not say whether other EAP programs are being monitored for safety or may possibly face suspension in the future.

    “”This is the only decision we’re making right now,”” he said.

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