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American College Programs in Mumbai Are Cautious and Relieved

December 1, 2008

American colleges reported that their students and employees in Mumbai were not hurt by the wave of terrorist attacks that shook the Indian city last week. But they also said that they were stepping up discussions about security and had called off programs while the attacks were taking place.

Champlain College, in Vermont, has operated a campus in Mumbai since 2001. Currently there are about 70 Indian students and 15-20 Indian faculty members there, along with one American student and one American administrator. Michelle Miller, associate provost at Champlain, said that officials from the Vermont campus have been in frequent contact with the Mumbai campus since the violence started and have been assured that "everyone there is safe." On the advice of the Indian government, Champlain shut the campus while the violence was still going on, but has since reopened it. Champlain's campus is about 30 minutes away from the area that saw the worst of the violence.

"Our hearts go out to everyone in Mumbai and India affected by these terrible events," Miller said.

She added that the college planned to review security measures to consider "any possible improvements," and said that safety would also be "our priority." But she also noted that "no city like Mumbai, with such a rich cultural heritage and global business relevance, is immune from terrorists."

Temple University's business school also has a program in Mumbai. One of the students currently there gave an interview to her hometown newspaper, The Pocono Record, in which she said that students were told to stay put as soon as the violence started. She noted that several of the areas targeted were frequently visited by students.

Wells College operates a program every spring semester in Mumbai on gender and development studies. John Wells, director of off-campus study for the college, said that there are no students from Wells in Mumbai now and that college officials are collecting information about the situation.

India has not historically been a top study abroad destination for American students. In 2006-7, data from the Institute of International Education show that 2,627 Americans studied in India, only 1.2 percent of the study abroad population. But India saw one of the largest worldwide percentage increases in U.S. students. Their numbers were up 24.2 percent in a year during which the total study abroad population increased by 8.5 percent.

Some colleges have January term programs in India, for which decisions on any changes would need to be made soon. Maryville College, in Tennessee, has such a program planned. Robert Bonham, a professor emeritus of fine arts, said that the college planned to run the program as scheduled, but that officials were monitoring State Department warnings and talking among themselves and with students about the situation.

One of the few Americans identified as killed in the attack was Alan Scherr, a former photography professor at Loyola College in Maryland, who was killed along with his daughter.

 

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