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March 13, 2020
I write to inform you that, in consultation with the staff from the Office of Study Abroad and International Programs as well as Pitzer leadership, I made the difficult decision on Thursday, March 12, to bring home all of our students who are currently studying abroad. We are prioritizing bringing home the students who are currently in Europe, but all students will be returned home and not to the Pitzer campus. The Pitzer Office of Student Affairs will work with students who cannot return home to determine a safe alternative for them and using the same procedures that they are using with on-campus students who cannot return home at this time. No decisions have been made about summer or fall study abroad programs. We will continue to monitor the global situation and to communicate decisions about these programs as we make them.
Several factors contributed to the decision to bring students home, including recently issued public health and travel advisories. For one, the US Department of State has issued a Global Level 3 Health Advisory; this advisory states that all global travel should be reconsidered and includes the warning that “even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice:” see travel advisory. Fulbright scholars across the globe also have been advised to return home. Another factor was the recently announced suspension of travel to the US from most of Europe for non-US citizens. This ban covers the next 30 days, but it could be extended or expanded to include more countries and other groups of people. Finally, new travel restrictions are being announced across the world seemingly every hour, making it increasingly difficult to predict if or when we would be able to safely return our students.
As of this writing, all students studying abroad have been notified of this decision, some are already on their way home, and we are working on finalizing travel arrangements for others. Staff in the Office of Study Abroad and International Programs are working with members of the team in the Dean of Faculty Office to develop academic plans for each of the students who returns. As it turns out, many of the international programs that were supporting our students are themselves going to online course delivery just as Pitzer has done. This will mean that the students in these programs can continue their academic programs even after they return home.
As I hope is clear, the decision to bring students home was not made lightly or arbitrarily. Pitzer has a long history of international engagement, including through our study abroad programs, and intercultural understanding is a core value in a Pitzer education. It is disheartening to have to withdraw students who are studying away from campus, and especially because many of them did not perceive imminent threat. Pitzer’s priority, first and foremost, is to student and community health, wellbeing, and safety. Further, we strive to provide students with high quality and rigorous educational experiences, including opportunities to study abroad in well-planned and consistent academic programs. The continuing deterioration of the global health and travel situation was creating an ever more precarious set of circumstances for our students. Bringing the students home now simply seemed to be the best, albeit difficult, decision.
This is a very challenging time for all of us for many and different reasons. I thank you for the work you are doing to support students, staff, and each other.
Allen M. Omoto, PhD
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Dean of Faculty