The students and staff of the University of Dallas Rome Program remain safe but cautious after the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13.
The students were in Florence on their class trip to Northern Italy during the attacks.
Dr. Peter Hatlie, dean and director of the Rome campus, said that, in light of the attacks, he will consult with President Thomas Keefe and the other deans to create guidelines and policies that specifically address this type of event.
Ryan Reedy, assistant dean of the Rome campus, said that Keefe arrived in Rome on Tuesday for a previously scheduled event. His trip allowed for a face-to-face meeting between him and Hatlie to discuss the recent events.
The plans resulting from these conversations will be relayed to the students in a special meeting on Tuesday evening and emailed to the students’ parents and loved ones. Reedy said the general guidelines for students will remain the same.
“As always, we’ll encourage students to be as safe as possible when travelling [and to take precautions] such as wearing inconspicuous clothing; avoiding demonstrations; carrying their emergency contact information, passports, and copies of their permesso di soggiorno; practicing the buddy system; consuming alcohol safely; and knowing the location of the nearest U.S. embassy and consulate, etc.,” Reedy said in an email.
The comprehensive email also included detailed accounts of the extensive presence of police and other peace enforcement personnel.
However, some changes to the program have been made in order to ensure students’ safety.
“Rome will cancel all Rome-destined group excursions indefinitely, including this week’s People and Places visit … this week’s Soup Kitchen appointment … and this week’s Scavi Tours,” Hatlie said in an email. “This represents a great loss to our students’ education but on the other hand St. Peter’s represents a particular danger insofar as it may be a likely target of any future terrorist attack.”
Both Hatlie and Reedy stated that students already possess emergency contact cards, which they were given at the beginning of the semester.
These cards list contact information of Rome and Irving staff members, major American Embassies around Europe, and Italian emergency services.
Hatlie stated that students can contact him or Reedy at any time in case of emergency.
Hatlie, a designated warden of the U.S. government, receives information on a first-alert basis from American intelligence and diplomatic agencies.
This is not the first time that the Rome campus has needed to respond to tragedy. These attacks present similar dilemmas to the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Hatlie said that this is not the first time that the Rome program has needed to adapt, and it may not be the last, but that students can flourish regardless of these circumstances.
“In those instances, the Rome program adapted and modified its activities to assure the safety and well-being of its students and staff, and thankfully not only did all turn out well but students clearly flourished in such an educational environment,” Hatlie said in an email. “Let’s hope that this crisis will be manageable in a similar way.”
The students in Rome had already begun to react to the attacks even before the administration’s implementation of the new policies.
Many students immediately contacted their parents, friends and loved ones to assure them of their safety.
A few student sources conveyed that many students over Thanksgiving decided upon alternate destinations.
Some who planned to visit Paris in the final travel weekend have changed their destination.
However, some still plan to visit, including sophomore Noah Kersting.
“I personally have been planning to go to Paris for Thanksgiving, and I still plan on going, but many of the people in my group have backed out, especially after the U.S. embassy in Paris has been closed,” Kersting said in an email.
While some students never planned to leave Rome for the final weekend due to the expense, junior Gwen Mohler said that many students specifically made plans to leave Rome, fearing that the city might be attacked.
The manner in which students’ post-semester travel plans will be affected remains to be determined.
“The attacks have forced me to keep my travel plans flexible especially since I’ll be staying in Europe past the end of the semester, more specifically in France and Belgium — possibly two of the more targeted countries,” Mohler wrote in an email. “From what I gathered from student gossip, about three students are for sure going home early before the semester ends,” Mohler said. “Honestly, hearing that sends nerves through me and many others because it makes it all the more real that this situation can potentially grow into something much worse than what we’ve already seen.”
“Without encouraging it in any way, Rome will accommodate student requests to repatriate immediately and still grant them full academic credit provided that all homework is completed and final exams are taken and passed successively,” Hatlie said in an email sent to parents and students.
Students may complete their studies during the fall 2015 exam period in Irving or next semester at an agreed-upon time.
The Paris attacks and the fear of future attacks continue to be the main topic on the campus and changes to travel plans are not students’ sole concerns.
According to Reedy, a student asked Fr. John Bayer, the Cistercian chaplain on the Northern Italy Trip, to lead students in praying a rosary, dedicated to the victims of the Paris attacks.
These prayers continue amongst the students on campus, as all are shocked and horrified at the tragedy and proximity of this event.
Details concerning the policy changes and outcome of the meeting will be updated online, or explained in a follow-up article.