In the midst of almost week-long anti-government protests in Egypt, four University students studying abroad in Cairo and Alexandria prepared to evacuate the country today as the University cancelled its Cairo-based study abroad program.
Two University students and one student from the University's Flint campus were studying at the American University in Cairo through the University's Center for Global and Intercultural Study, and four University students were studying at Alexandria University with a non-University affiliated program, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said last night.
Two of the students in Cairo — who have been staying at two separate American University in Cairo dormitories — will be evacuated today on a charter flight to Athens before they fly back to the United States, Fitzgerald said. One student, meanwhile, has been staying with her grandparents and will remain in Cairo and plans to directly re-enroll in classes at AUC after classes resume. According to the AUC website, classes have been cancelled this week.
Demonstrators and looters continue to quarrel with police and military forces on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities, demanding democratic elections and protesting against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for nearly 30 years.
Fitzgerald said the University cancelled the program at AUC after the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning to Egypt yesterday.
"(This is), consistent with the University's policy of not having study abroad programs in countries where there are travel warnings," Fitzgerald said.
The University was initially unaware there were University students besides those in Cairo in the country as the students in Alexandria had not registered with the University's newly-revamped travel registry, Fitzgerald said. Two of the students studying in Alexandria were out of the country when the violence started last week. The two other students will leave Egypt today and fly to Dubai on a charter flight, according to Fitzgerald.
The University found out the students were in Alexandria because University officials called several study abroad programs in Egypt and throughout the Middle East, Fitzgerald said, to ensure all University students were safe.
Fitzgerald said it's feasible but "highly unlikely" that there are still University students in Egypt who University officials don't know about.
"It's always possible that a student could've taken a semester off from classes and not be registered and we wouldn't know exactly where they might be," he said.
Fitzgerald said University officials, like John Godfrey, assistant dean for International Education at Rackham, have been in touch with the students either directly or indirectly to ensure they were out of harm's way.
"(Administrators) involved with international study abroad programs have been working around the clock to make sure where our students are, to know that they're safe, to be in contact with their families and to participate in making the arrangements for them to come back to the United States," Fitzgerald said.
He added that Godfrey has also been discussing with other University officials the possibility of the students coming back to the U.S. and enrolling at the University this semester.
A group of two University graduate students, a faculty member and a staff member are also conducting research in the south of Egypt, Fitzgerald said. The group has been in contact with University officials, but since they are about 300 miles south of Cairo, it was determined they could stay.
For the third straight day yesterday, protesters in Cairo defied a government-mandated 4 p.m. curfew. At least 10,000 protesters congregated in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei is leading the mass uprising that was sparked suddenly last week by social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. ElBaradei spoke to the assembled crowd shortly after night fell on the Egyptian capital last night calling for a democratic political process.
The military, with tanks and other armed vehicles, as well as police, were stationed throughout Cairo yesterday. Police were increasing their presence in the streets as part of an effort to end looting and lawlessness that has become rampant.
The U.S. Embassy suggested Americans leave Egypt as soon as they could and said it would begin organizing flights out of the country today. Non-emergency embassy employees and employee family members are also allowed to leave.