Officials at the Office of International Programs say that they will introduce new policies next week that will permit students to apply to study in countries with U.S. State Department travel warnings, including Israel and Lebanon.
OIP Executive Director Katherine Bellows said that her office was still in the process of finalizing the new policies, which will take effect when they are posted on OIP's Web site August 1.
Bellows said that, even with the current restrictions lifted, students will only be authorized to study in countries with travel warnings under "very limited circumstances." Only about five to seven students so far have expressed significant interest and shown that there is no viable alternative to studying in a travel warning area, she said.
OIP's decision comes after almost a year of increased focus on study abroad in Israel and Lebanon, as students called for expanded study options in the Middle East and administrators weighed safety concerns. OIP officials said last year that they were considering lifting the restrictions on study in nations with travel warnings, but no decision was reached.
The new policies would not create any new Georgetown-sponsored study abroad programs, but students would be able to participate in non-Georgetown study programs such as those at the American University in Beirut and Beirut's Universite Saint-Joseph.
University spokeswoman Julie Bataille emphasized that decisions whether to permit students to study in areas with travel warnings will be made carefully on an individual basis.
"On a case-by-case basis students' applications for study on an independent basis will be evaluated by a committee of trained faculty and staff taking into account the academic necessity and appropriateness of the proposed study, the individual's personal preparedness and the content of the travel warning," Bataille said in an e-mail. "This enables students to apply for study options but does not blanketly permit them in all instances."
Bataille also said that the new policy would make clear that the university does not actively encourage students to travel to areas with travel warnings.
Bellows said that there has been much greater student interest in Israel study than in Beirut programs. Although the new policies are still being reviewed and finalized, the new program will only allow students to study in independent programs in countries with travel warnings if there are no comparable alternatives elsewhere, Bellows said.
"There's no blueprint for this," she said, adding that the university was carefully weighing new study opportunities against security concerns in a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world.
The State Department has active travel warnings for 27 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the Phillipines, Kenya and Sudan. The most recent travel warning for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza was issued June 20, and warns Americans to "carefully weigh the necessity of their travel to Israel" in light of recent terrorist attacks.
The most recent travel warning for Lebanon, issued April 21, encourages U.S. citizens to use caution and keep a low profile, given recent attacks targeting Americans.
The decision to lift Georgetown's ban on study in Israel and Lebanon represents another step toward increasing the university's study opportunities in the Middle East. Officials announced last spring that the university would open a new branch campus in Qatar, to which some Georgetown students could apply.
The university also maintains a program in Alanya, Turkey, which it shut down after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It later reopened the program.
Georgetown suspended study abroad in Israel in 2000, citing security concerns.