Study Abroad should allow students to travel to countries with travel warnings

Kevin Young, Staff Writer

The following is an opinion piece, and does not reflect the views of the Tulane Hullabaloo.

Tulane’s study abroad policies generally only allow students to visit countries not listed on the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Warning list with the notable exception of Israel. This policy limits students’ opportunities to broaden their educational and cultural horizons in a program that is designed to do exactly that. Tulane University should allow students to study abroad anywhere and everywhere in the world. 

As of now, a student considering studying abroad at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani in Kurdistan faces several barriers to fulfilling that goal. First, Tulane will not create partnerships with universities in most of Kurdistan, which means there will not be any Tulane programs to attend in that region.

Second, if a student still wants to study abroad in that program using Tulane financial aid or United States government student loans, they need to meet the excessively high standards for an Independent Scholar Option application which are a 3.5 cumulative GPA, a highly competitive track record of scholastic success and a detailed academic research proposal.

Next, if students are eligible to apply for the ISO, they must first petition the Tulane Travel Committee for a waiver to apply for an ISO program in a forbidden country. After that, if and only if the student is approved for a waiver by the Tulane Travel Committee, can the student then submit an ISO application to the Tulane Study Abroad Committee for review. This process is ridiculous red tape and needs to be completely done away with. In fact, Office of Study Abroad Director Peter Alongia said he cannot think of a student who has ever petitioned the Tulane Travel Committee for a waiver.

Tulane should abolish safety restrictions on where students can study abroad for two main reasons: Study abroad safety restrictions are inherently impersonal and thus unreliable, and Tulanians are adults and therefore, should be allowed to make their own life decisions.

Let’s say that a student is — like myself and many other Tulanians — gay. Tulane will normally allow students to study abroad in Rabat, Morocco but not Erbil, Iraq. For a gay man, Erbil is a much safer study abroad option than Rabat. Rabat is part of Morocco — a country that regularly imprisons LGBT persons, even Western LGBT persons. Erbil is one of the few places in the Islamic world where gays are not systematically oppressed on a large scale. Since Iraq is on the U.S. Department of State Travel Warning list, however, a student cannot get Tulane’s authorization to study abroad there, even though Tulane will gladly grant them permission to study in Rabat.

At the end of the day, individuals and their families are the best ones suited to make decisions concerning their lives. Tulane should continue to provide advice and recommendations on where they feel is safe or unsafe and why. The university must understand that one policy simply cannot accommodate thousands of diverse and unique undergraduate university students, though. Further, even if Tulane could somehow create a policy that equally and fairly calculated the safety of programs for all students, it is not Tulane’s place to tell students how they should be living their lives.

To put it simply, if students want to risk their lives studying in Kenya, Haiti or Venezuela, they should be permitted and authorized to do so. 

Kevin Young is a sophomore in the Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]