IAU College Statement on Paris Attacks January 15, 2015

Like the rest of the world, IAU is in shock over the senseless tragedy carried out in Paris last week.  First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends, and colleagues of the victims in the hope that their grief will ultimately be overcome by their resilience as well as their existence in a more peaceful world.

It goes without saying that the safety and security of IAU students, regardless of program locale, is our top priority.  Whether they are enrolled in one of our multi-country traveling seminars held throughout Europe, the Arab world, and Turkey, in our Barcelona summer program, or based at one of our flagship programs in Aix-en-Provence, France, ensuring a safe and secure environment in which our students can learn and thrive is paramount to IAU.  To give a very fresh example, the attacks last week occurred on the very day one of our January Term traveling seminar groups was to fly from Rome to Paris.  IAU leadership convened and when it became clear that the situation in Paris was still fluid, the decision was made to forego the Paris portion of the seminar, and the students were flown directly to London where the balance of the seminar would take place.

With the spring 2015 cohort expected to arrive soon in France and with many students connecting through Paris, given the recent events it’s not surprising that many are concerned with student safety, whether they are parents, family members, professors, advisors, or the students themselves. Count IAU at the top of that list.  But being concerned with safety is not the same as feeling the students are at risk.   And despite last week’s attacks, we do not feel that inbound students are at risk for their safety.  In fact, much like how 9/11 had a tremendous impact on raising security awareness across the U.S., there may not be a safer time to travel in France.  Security measures have increased throughout France and this extends, to some degree, to Aix.  I say to some degree because as a smaller town, Aix is a very safe place, insulated from general attention, is relatively wealthy, and not a hub of political attention or controversy.

In addition, IAU is using its extensive network of institutional and individual contacts (either those in France or those with an intimate understanding of the security in France) to gather intelligence.  Several of IAU’s Board of Trustees are former U.S. Ambassadors with direct access to key contacts in Washington, D.C. including those at the State Department. My staff is in constant communication with the U.S. embassy and the Conseil-genéral in Marseille.  Their collective feedback underscores our belief that U.S. students are not at risk to travel to and study in France.

As is typical, we encourage students to stay vigilant during their travels and we will use our orientation time to ramp up the discussion on how to continue such vigilance during their time in Aix including any trips that they may intend on taking in the spring semester.  While IAU already places a high degree of emphasis on student security, we will continue to sensitize students to actions they need to take (or not) in order to stay safe.

I can also guarantee you that we will use our standing as an institute of higher learning and as part of our ‘’Social Issues Across the Curriculum’’ initiative, will incorporate relevant discussion of the events in our classrooms. In fact, dialogue has already begun in university settings focusing on the need for more tolerance and understanding amongst cultures which is one weapon against these brutal, divisive forces.

The tragedy in Paris is another wake-up call to all of us that we may never completely rid ourselves of terrorist ideals or attack.  But in the face of this we must continue to live and breathe our democratic ideals, and overcome fear.

Carl Jubran, PhD
IAU College