Pitzer College cancels spring 2021 study abroad

Stone sign that reads "Pitzer College"
Pitzer College suspends all study abroad for the spring 2021 semester. (Regan Rudman • The Student Life)

Pitzer College suspended all study abroad for the spring 2021 semester with hopes to resume an expanded roster of programs for the summer and full study abroad options in fall 2021, college officials announced in an email to students Friday.

“We are aware that this decision will disappoint many students who, understandably, retained hope that they would profit from a spring global experience,” Dean of Faculty Allen M. Omoto and Michael Ballagh, associate vice president of study abroad, said in an email to students. “We believe that making this decision now is important in order to provide sufficient time for students and faculty advisors to work together to adjust academic plans where needed.”

Pomona College canceled spring 2021 study abroad last week, while Harvey Mudd College elected to suspend spring study abroad in late August. Claremont McKenna College and Scripps College officials have so far said they will evaluate programs on an individual basis.

The decision to cancel spring 2021 was not unexpected, however, as a September email told Pitzer students that “spring 2021 study abroad is looking less and less likely.”

According to the Friday email, the increasing severity of the coronavirus pandemic prompted the decision. 

The “chaotic situation of Spring 2020 where study abroad programs were closed mid-way through the semester” as well as varying quarantine requirements, travel restrictions, student mobility and evacuation services were also cited as rationale behind the decision.

All of Pitzer’s spring 2021 study abroad locations currently have travel advisories of Level 3 — which advise avoiding nonessential travel — or higher, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the email said.

Pitzer will instead offer students the opportunity to “engage globally” through virtual seminars and global internships in spring 2021. Seminars such as Italian Culture Studies, Costa Rica and the Environment and Culture, Change & Justice: Nepal will meet Pitzer’s Intercultural Global Requirement and are cross-listed under Critical Global Studies.

“While we are excited about these global seminars and internships, they in no way substitute for an in-country study abroad experience,” the Oct. 30 email said.

In addition to new global spring courses, the college “expects to relaunch” study abroad programs over the summer if there is an improvement in the pandemic, according to the email. Pitzer’s Office of Study Abroad is currently evaluating the feasibility of running their traditional summer abroad programs in Brazil, Costa Rica, Japan and Vietnam and summer sessions at the semester-abroad sites.

In an email sent directly to Pitzer students who intended on studying abroad during the spring 2021 semester, Kebokile Dengu-Zvobgo, associate dean of international programs and study abroad, acknowledged the college’s choice to postpone the decision to October.

“We delayed this decision as long as possible in the hopes that conditions would improve but it is clear now that the situation is getting worse in many parts of the world, including much of the U.S. and that study abroad is not a safe or responsible option for spring 2021,” Dengu-Zvobgo said.

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