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Guatemala Rapes Raise Concerns Over Study Trips

January 20, 1998|JAMES RISEN and MARC LACEY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

College President Jane Margaret O'Brien said the attack would prompt a review of the college's "procedures and policies" for sending students abroad. "We may exclude this area, and we may look more broadly in our Latin American programs and determine how best we can serve the safety issue first before we do any of the cultural enrichment activities for our students."

But O'Brien said the liberal arts college remains committed to its study programs abroad.

As reporters and television trucks descended on St. Mary's traumatized campus, other academic experts said the case underscores how a surge in the number of U.S. college students exploring the Third World points to a need for better controls and coordination of overseas study.

A new report by the New York-based Institute of International Education noted that a year abroad once meant study in London or Paris, but today it could just as easily mean the Brazilian rain forest.

During the 1995-1996 academic year, 89,242 Americans received college credit for study abroad, and the survey found a strong trend among students to head for non-Western European destinations. The survey found nearly 14,000 U.S. students were involved in overseas study programs in Latin America, an 18% increase from the previous year. The survey also found a 10% rise in the number of students traveling to Africa, a 5% rise for Asia and a 15% increase for Russia.

"While you have more students going to the Third World, there is no central resource or clearinghouse to help college administrators decide whether to go to a country, and if they do go, how best to deal with the conditions," said Gary Rhodes, program coordinator at USC's Office of Overseas Studies and an expert on international study programs.

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