As the news of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, which left 129 dead, reached U.S. airwaves, the University of Connecticut reacted quickly to account for all students and staff studying abroad or visiting the French capital.
UConn’s Office of Global Affairs has specific guidelines for dealing with emergencies in study abroad locations, outlining their response to a “political, social or natural emergency” saying the office would “be in close contact with the on-site staff and/or UConn Resident Director of the program.” This tragedy gave an unfortunate need to use this prepared system. Thankfully, according to an email from UConn president Susan Herbst, no UConn students and staff were among the casualties, and all 17 students studying in Paris had been contacted.
Though we hope such malevolent acts do not occur, abroad or closer to home, UConn’s response demonstrates an extraordinary level of preparation and training and is deserving of praise.
According to coverage from the Daily Campus, UConn officials not only reached out to students and faculty abroad, but also “offered support to the 13 French citizens enrolled at the school.” Such immediate support to members of the UConn community deserves praise. Though it was logical to reach out to those on the ground in Paris first, this extended response to French students at UConn shows an extremely detailed plan for such unexpected tragedies.
In the immediate aftermath of this catastrophe, UConn not only contacted students studying abroad in Paris and France, but also “Four other UConn students who were vacationing in Paris from other European study abroad programs,” according to the Daily Campus report.
The university clearly has a responsibility to maintain close contact and to monitor their students who are studying abroad. However, perfecting the logistics of such monitoring efforts, given the often hectic nature of student travel while abroad, is, at a minimum, incredibly difficult. Given the lockdown of the French border, as well as the potential for jammed cell phone and internet communications, as often occurs in the aftermath of a crisis, the response is all the more impressive.
Until all the suspects are apprehended, the university must maintain contact with students studying abroad. Using administration and Office of Global Affairs’ rapid response to this unforeseen tragedy, there is no reason to doubt their use of continued communication with students and faculty, in order to prepare for any potential chaos in the ongoing manhunt.
Though the students, faculty and administration could never have imagined such an incident of terror would occur, the faculty and administration officials who proactively planned and conducted the response should be lauded.