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Announcements & Updates (updated 11/20/20)

Below is a list of important health, safety, and risk management updates from the Office of Study Away. This information is divided into two categories; Office Announcements and Health & Safety

Office Announcements: Focuses on important information related to the Office of Study Away; such as significant policy changes or updates regarding study away programming. 

Health & Safety: Focuses on significant health and safety events from regions of the world to which Oberlin students, staff, and faculty frequently travel. Please note the following about the Health & Safety section:
  • It is not a fully comprehensive report of all health and safety events relevant to a region or country
  • It does not include COVID-related information, nor does it detail health and safety events that indicate a short-term impact on travelers; such as weather events, isolated protests, etc.
  • It is meant to provide snapshots of events that indicate a medium- to long-term impact on travelers; such as armed conflict, political unrest/ instability, long-term protests/ demonstrations/ strikes, ethnic/ sectarian tensions, terrorism, etc.
  • The date that corresponds to the event marks the most recent update, even if the event is ongoing. When the event no longer presents an impact to travelers it is removed.

                                        **Last updated 11/30/20**  


OFFICE ANNOUNCEMENTS



Nov. 20, 2020 - Study Away Cancelled for Spring 2021

Across the past several months, Oberlin Senior Staff, the Office of Study Away, and Oberlin's International Risk Committee have closely monitored and assessed various health, safety, and logistical metrics that we feel are essential for a safe, successful, and ultimately fulfilling study away experience. Due to the pandemic's rapid spread and increased severity - both in the U.S. and abroad - Oberlin does not feel that studying away in the Spring semester of 2021 is in the best interest of students’ health and safety.

While the COVID landscape remains ever-changing, a timely decision needed to be made with students' safety at its core. Unfortunately, there was not enough improvement in the factors examined (listed below) to determine that studying away would ultimately prove safe and successful. The Office of Study Away has notified our students and organizational partners about this decision so that we can coordinate communication and planning.

Oberlin considered a wide variety of health, safety, and logistical metrics for each country and U.S. state to which our students were planning to travel. They include, but are not limited to the following:
  • Global Health Advisories - U.S. State Department (consistently remained at level 3 of 4)
  • Travel Health Notices - U.S. Centers for Disease Control (consistently remained at level 3 of 3) 
  • Active cases of COVID-19 - Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard
  • Transmission Classification - World Health Organization (WHO)
  • National Testing Strategies - WHO
  • Number of Tests Administered per 1,000 people, per week - WHO
  • Total New Cases (rolling 7-day avg.) - WHO & CDC 
  • Total New Deaths (rolling 7-day avg.) - WHO & CDC
  • Government Pandemic Response - Oxford COVID Govt. Response Tracker
  • Test Positivity Rate (rolling 7-day avg.) - Our World in Data
  • New Cases per 100,000 (rolling 14-day avg.) - European Center for Disease Control (ECDC)
  • New Deaths per 100,000 (rolling 14-day avg.) - ECDC
  • Total COVID-specific Beds Available - Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)
  • Total COVID-specific Beds Needed (projected) - IHME
  • Logistical concerns identified included:
    • Access to and affordability of flights for students
    • Potential for international travel to be broadly restricted or shutdown should the severity of the pandemic spike 
    • Ability of parents/ guardians/ loved ones to travel to students in the event they contract COVID or become ill or injured in any other way 
  • Many, but not all, study away programs in Europe have been cancelled for Spring 2021: 
    • This served as a harbinger for how the field of international education was interpreting the viability of study abroad. 
  • The potential mental and emotional toll for students:
    • It would be of greater concern if students were to contract COVID (or face required quarantine and/ or isolation) while far from their strongest support networks than if they were closer to home.
These metrics, and other factors, indicated that the risks of study away are simply too many for the Spring 2021 semester. We recognize that this is a disappointing decision for many students. Ultimately, it is one that was made with their best interests at heart. Oberlin remains committed to the academic, experiential, and personal enrichment that takes place for students on these programs as it is core to our educational and institutional mission. In turn, the Office of Study Away remains committed to supporting students as they adjust their plans for the Spring, and begin planning for study away in the coming semesters.
 


Aug. 25, 2020 - Update regarding Title IX & Study Away

Changes to federal Title IX policy will impact students studying away, either domestically or internationally. Please review the information listed below and refer to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for additional details.

1. Due to recent changes in federal Title IX policy, community members who are studying or completing academic work for the college outside of the U.S. are not covered by Title IX, and as a result, are not covered by Oberlin's Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy. 

2. Students studying away within the U.S. may be covered by Title IX and should report to the Title IX Coordinator of the institution or program where they are studying.

3. Depending on the program and the misconduct, some community members may be covered under Oberlin's Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy for misconduct experienced while away.

4. Oberlin College students and employees may always request support resources from the college regardless of when or where an incident may have happened.

It is important to keep in mind that the laws and customs of other countries, reporting options, and support resources may differ from those of the United States. If you are out of the country and need assistance, please contact Rebecca Mosely, Title IX Coordinator, or any staff members listed on the How to File a Report page, who will coordinate a support response with Michael Rainaldi, Director of International Programs and Study Away. You may also report online now.

Referrals for medical care may be obtained through the staff on your study away program, or through the company providing your international health insurance. United States citizens can also contact the nearest United States embassy or consulate or call American Citizen Services 1-202-501-4444; citizens of other countries can contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the country of their citizenship.

The  U.S. State Department offers resources and information for U.S. citizens who have been the victims of crime overseas.



Jun. 15, 2020 - Study Away Cancelled for Fall 2020

This announcement applies only to programs that start in Fall 2020 (i.e. Fall semester and year-long programs). It does not apply to programs that begin in Spring or Summer 2021.

It is with a heavy heart that Oberlin has made the very difficult decision to cancel study away (both domestic and international) for the Fall 2020 semester and for year-long programs that begin in Fall 2020.
 
Across the past several months, the Office of Study Away has been closely monitoring various health, safety, and logistic metrics that are essential to a safe and successful study away experience (those are listed below). Unfortunately, these metrics have simply not shown enough improvement for us to feel that study away is in the best interest of student safety. Furthermore, nearly all of the study away organizations with which we partner have either cancelled or significantly altered their programs.
 
This is a disappointing decision for us to make; even more so, it’s a disappointing one for our students to hear. Please know it was not one that we came to easily, nor quickly. These indicators of health and safety simply mean that the risks of study away are too many. And the numbers of adjustments to programs that are still operating mean that the student experience will be vastly different in comparison to study away during another semester.
 
Some of the most important factors that guided this decision:

> The US State Department’s Global Health Advisory has remained at Level 4 – it’s highest level – since March 31st  

> The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) still recommends against non-essential international travel

> Many Consulates around the US and in other parts of the world are simply not processing student visas at this time

> Many countries are still restricting entry of non-citizens


> Many countries that are permitting entry of non-citizens are requiring a 14-day mandatory quarantine

> Airline tickets remain limited and expensive

> The COVID-19 landscape in many countries around the world remains fluid and unpredictable. This is also true for many parts of the US where our students we’re planning domestic study away.

> Cancellation and alterations to many study away programs
For example, of the few programs that remain open, many have shortened their academic calendars, adjusted their mode of instruction (courses moving to an online or hybrid format), and/or restricted student mobility to other countries during the semester (or perhaps even within the host country itself).

> Lessons learned from the Spring 2020 semester
One of the most challenging aspects of the Spring semester was the rapid closure of international borders as countries attempted to prevent the spread of the virus. This resulted in a massive reduction of flights, expensive return tickets, and in some cases, significant delays in students’ ability to return home. There is a possibility for these or similar challenges to occur again. It is not an experience we want to risk putting our students through. 

Students planning to study away in the Fall 2020 or AY 2020-21 can chose to withdraw their application completely, defer their acceptance to Spring 2021, or defer their acceptance to Fall 2021. Any of these options are easy to do, and there will be no financial or academic penalty for doing so.
 
We again acknowledge that this is a disappointing decision for many students. It was certainly not an easy decision to make as we recognize the energy and effort that students have devoted to planning for this experience. Ultimately, this decision is one that was made with the best interests of students in mind, after taking into account a wide range of health, safety, and logistics issues.

 


HEALTH & SAFETY


There are no health and safety updates to report at this time.