New York University, a prominent provider of study abroad opportunities to Mills and other U.S. college students, has closed one of its newest sites.
According to a Jan. 3 memo written by Farhad Kazemi, Vice Provost for Global Affairs at NYU, the study abroad program in Buenos Aires is being suspended due to protests and civilian unrest that could possibly endanger the safety and well being of the students.
Last semester, two Mills students participated in NYU programs abroad, along with students from other California schools including Santa Clara and Stanford universities.
Anna Barry-Jester, an NYU student who attended the fall semester at NYU’s Buenos Aires site, had planned to extend her studies there to the full academic year. She said did not understand NYU’s reasoning for the cancellation.
“I figured that NYU would only do that if it really was dangerous, but, out of the 18 major programs I found, only one other was cancelled, because they were too small to handle the monetary situation,” said Barry-Jester.
Despite NYU’s cancellation, Barry-Jester decided stay in Buenos Aires and enroll in one another program there. Since Argentina has been deemed a danger zone by NYU, her home school, she is being denied academic credit for the classes she is taking there, the same classes NYU had approved for credit prior to the protests.
According to Barry-Jester, NYU is perpetuating a negative image of Argentina and Latin America as well as creating unnecessary hassles for the students.
“NYU sent a message to a lot of people by canceling the program. It is a big organization, with a lot of pull, and a lot of associations. All of those people now think Argentina is a dangerous place to be.”
The Department of State issued an announcement Jan. 3 that urged United States citizens to monitor media reports and avoid large gatherings of people, but did not suggest cancellation of travel plans to or within Argentina.
According to one employee of the NYU in Buenos Aires site, though, Argentina is a dangerous place to be at this time. The extent to which the violence grew was hard to believe, she said.
Argentine resident Irene Zucchi explained in a Spanish conversation that a long history of corrupt government officials pushing Argentina further into debt and recession forced frustrated Argentines to action on December 19. Civilians began protesting after Argentine ex-president, Fernando de la Rua, on the advice of financial minister Domingo Cavallo, restricted bank withdrawals to no more than $1000 per month.
“Almost all of Buenos Aires was banging pots and pans in the streets or on their balconies as a protest. Some people took to the streets and confronted the police outside the congressional hall,” said Peter Evans, a New York University graduate present in Buenos Aires when the riots began.
The riots continued and became more violent when police, using fire hoses, tear gas, beatings, and rubber slugs fired from shotguns, attempted to break up a crowd of nearly 1000 men and women who had assembled in the main plaza.
“Some died because the police did not always use just rubber bullets,” Evans said.
Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin reported 27 dead by the end of December 20.
In the following two weeks, five different presidents were placed in office, four of which resigned almost immediately after taking office. Left-wing senator Eduardo Duhalde is currently assuming the office until December 2003, when ex-president de la Rua’s term was to expire.
Zucchi says it is unclear as to when these problems in Argentina will begin to be resolved. New president, Duhalde, has taken various actions to rectify the financial situation. The consequences of these actions, however, can only be visibly seen in the sharp devaluation of the Argentine peso from one-to-one with the American dollar to 1.8 pesos to the dollar and the disappearance of funds from several Argentine banks.
“The people don’t believe in those who govern,” she said. “The truth is that I don’t think this has a solution.”
The NYU study abroad staff is unsure as to when the Buenos Aires site will be able to reopen. It is entirely dependent on when and how well Argentina is able to stabilize itself.
Students who were enrolled in the spring 2002 term were given the option to be placed at another NYU site in one of six large cities including Florence, London, Madrid, Paris and Prague. NYU students may choose to register for classes at the Washington Square site as well. This, however, means registering weeks after the normal registration period and confronting the problem of housing, which, according to NYU sophmore Sarah Lilley, is a big ordeal.
Mills students may choose from several alternate programs in Buenos Aires advertised in the Mills Study Abroad office, including the Council on International Educational Exchange, Butler University’s Institute for Study Abroad, and the American Institute for Foreign Study. So far, none of these programs have announced cancellation of their programs in Buenos Aires in light of the recent happenings.