The worst Ebola outbreak in history continues to take many lives in West Africa. The U.S. Department of State placed travel warnings on the nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and a travel alert for parts of West Africa in general.
The Centers for Disease Control released travel recommendations, advising colleges to place stronger restrictions on student and faculty travel to the area. The University of Minnesota has largely complied with the suggestion, and the University “has been continuously assessing the situation to ensure students’ safety at home and abroad,” the Minnesota Daily reported Sept. 8.
The federal government’s recommendations should be taken seriously by all U.S. college administrators. The Ebola plaguing the region shows no signs of slowing down, and student safety and travel should be the school’s highest priority. No travel experience or research program is worth the risk of getting Ebola, a disease that has killed 2,296 people so far this year.
Students at the University of Minnesota are lucky to have an administration working to comply with federal travel recommendations in this case. Not all students, either in high school or college, are so lucky. The federal government does not require schools and study abroad programs to comply with its travel advisement. Colleges can continue sending students to the plagued region of West Africa, even against better judgement.
There are no federal laws protecting our students abroad. The state and federal governments in the U.S. count nearly everything, from the amount of coffee we produce each year to how many bowling-related accidents happen on average. However, our government does not count injuries, illnesses and deaths of our kids on student programs abroad. Our children are obviously more valuable than coffee beans and cosmetics, yet our current policy tells a different story.
We hope U.S. colleges comply with the federal travel advisement and refrain from sending students and professors to the areas in West Africa affected by the worst Ebola outbreak in history.