Several universities in the United States have suspended study-abroad programs in some areas of Mexico because of security concerns raised in a travel warning from the State Department this month.
The warning, issued March 14, urges U.S. citizens to delay unnecessary travel to three states in northern Mexico—Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango—because of increasing drug-related violence there. It also expresses concerns about safety risks in six cities near the U.S. border, Ciudad Juárez, Matamoros, Monterrey, Nogáles, Nuevo Laredo, and Tijuana.
In response to those concerns, Michigan State University has announced that it will suspend its two programs in Monterrey, but continue to operate its programs in other parts of the country. Julie A. Friend, the international analyst for travel health, safety, and security at Michigan State, said the university decided to suspend only the Monterrey programs because the warning did not apply to the whole country. When a travel warning does apply to a whole country, the university automatically suspends all programs there, but it allows the leaders of individual programs to petition for a waiver.
The University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire will cancel both its programs in Mexico: a nine-day summer program in Monterrey and a service-learning trip to Durango, which had been set to take place next week, over spring break.
Because both of those destinations were mentioned in the travel warning, Karl F. Markgraf, director of Eau Claire's Center for International Education, said the decision to call off the trips was clear. The university has a policy to cancel all programs in countries with travel warnings, he said, but it will sometimes consider the safety of programs on a case-by-case basis.
The University of Texas at Austin has also suspended some of its programs in Mexico but has not yet provided details.
Two organizations that promote international study—the Center for Global Education at Loyola Marymount University and the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration—issued a joint statement offering suggestions about how to interpret the travel warning. It recommends a number of considerations for American colleges and universities to review in deciding whether to suspend programs, and urges them to consider creative solutions, such as the use of technology, in order to maintain international collaborations.