Students studying abroad in the Middle East understand that living in the tumultuous region comes with a degree of risk. But for the 15 Georgetown students studying in Cairo, that risk became a reality on Sunday, as widespread unrest in Egypt made continued safe study impossible. The University’s decision to pull the students out of the country when it did was appropriate, and it conducted its evacuation effort amidst massive protests and scattered incidences of violence with surprising quickness. Georgetown should be commended for its well-organized response, but its support should continue as these students adjust to the rest of their semester.
The decision to evacuate the students came after University administrators had consulted closely with the State Department and officials at the American University in Cairo so that they fully grasped the situation on the ground. When it became clear that student safety was seriously threatened, the University acted quickly, getting students past the massive crowds that have mobbed airports and onto a flight out of the country. Other universities did not act so quickly. George Washington University and American University were unable to evacuate all of their students until Tuesday.
Equally impressive was the University’s communication with the student body throughout the process. Emails from President John DeGioia and University Spokesperson Julie Green Bataille kept students updated on the safety and well-being of their peers and friends.
With those 15 students now safely in Qatar and their semester in Egypt prematurely finished, it is important that the University take the steps necessary to reintegrate the students into new classes, either here in D.C. or abroad in a new program. Georgetown has still not publicly announced the academic options available to the students now that they have left Egypt. The University ought to offer them the chance to study at its satellite campus in Qatar or another program in the Middle East. Students should be given seats in whatever classes they qualify for. The University should also instruct professors to be flexible and make any adjustments necessary to grading policies so that students can resume their studies in the classes they chose and on even footing with their peers. It would be unfair to penalize these students for events outside of their control. Students deserve the chance to graduate on time.
So far, Georgetown deserves high marks for the coordination and communication of its response to events in Egypt. But the challenges for these students didn’t end in Egypt. They deserve the continued attention and support of the University as they try and pick up their semester far from where it began.