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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Ghana Trip Cancelled

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As a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Carleton canceled its winter break off-campus studies trip to Ghana.

Although Ghana has had minimal con- tact with the Ebola virus, Carleton’s insurance carrier, Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) said it would not evacuate any students with any symptoms of Ebola, prompting concern from the college, according to Helena Kaufman, director of off-campus studies.

The administration decided to cancel the trip after attending a Center for Infectious Disease Research seminar, contacting peering institutions and speaking with CISI, she said.

“What we found is that our capacity to evacuate students would be severely impaired,” Kaufman said.

She emphasized that faculty, the off-campus studies office and deans did significant research before deciding to cancel the trip. With months of students and faculty working and researching for this trip, the cancellation was “not done lightly,” she said.

Jimmy Donelson ’17, a student who planned to attend the trip, said, “We were all very shocked and concerned about why the cancellation happened.”

He said that some students are concerned that the actions of CISI reflect the widespread paranoia, afro-pessimism and mis-information about Ebola in Africa. “More people die from flu in America in an average year than from Ebola,” Donelson said. “Our society as a whole is very uneducated about things like diseases and thinks Africa is some homogenous place.”

Kaufman argues Carleton is not respon- sible for the paranoia and panic of insurance companies such as the CISI, but we “are implicated by them because these are the people we rely on for services.” At the end of the day, there was “a lot of emotions around this decision, it was very emotional for me too.”

Samuel Cattau ’15 is suspicious: “When I heard the reasons why it was canceled, it fit with a larger pattern of decision-making this college has used before,” he said “If it’s outside of the realm of things they’re comfortable with, they avoid it.”

With the insurance companies it is partially paranoia but “from the perspectives of institutions with pockets as deep as Carleton, at the end of the day, they care more about protecting their money than protecting the students,” he said.

Like Donelson, Cattau mentioned the negative and uninformed view people often have of African countries. He said, “Africa was always treated as a dirty place. We have to get all types of new vaccinations before going to Africa. They talk about not coming into contact with anybody in Africa.

“What if people who go on the Rome or London programs are told the same things about coming into contact with the Italian or English people?”

In his response to Carleton’s final decision Cattau said, “My opinion is that it’s really easy to hide behind an expert’s opinion, and sometimes, referencing a third party alleviates the responsibility from yourself.”

In lieu of traveling to Ghana, Carleton is trying to move the trip to Amsterdam and to work with a professor who researches the African diaspora and colonial/post-colonial history of Ghana at the University of Amsterdam.

Donelson said, “I think the school is doing a great job of trying to make up for our loss of trip to Ghana.”

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