The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



London rioting causes concern

Sara Felsenstein | Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Study abroad students departing for London tomorrow will need to be conscious of safety in a way that past students of Notre Dame’s 29-year-old program have not.

Weeks before Notre Dame students were scheduled to leave for their semesters abroad, violent riots spread through parts of London and Birmingham, raising questions about students’ safety traveling both to and within the city.

The rioting did not affect the Waterloo or Trafalgar Square areas, where the Notre Dame student residence and classroom building are located, but staffs of the London Program and Office of International Studies (OIS) are still taking the necessary safety precautions.

“The safety of the students and the assurance of a rich academic and cultural experience during their study abroad session are our top priorities,” J. Nicholas Entrikin, vice president and associate provost for internationalization, said in a statement.

London Program staff will also discuss emergency protocols with students when they arrive in London for orientation, Entrikin said.

He said students set to spend fall semester in London were “fully advised” about added security measures, and that members of the London Program staff were in contact with the students as they made their preparations to go abroad.

“Students were informed that University of Notre Dame officials were closely monitoring the situation, which remained stable in the vicinity of the London Centre and Conway Hall,” London Program Director Greg Kucich said.

Junior Meredith Kugar, who will study abroad in London this semester, said her first reaction to the riots was one of concern.

“I just was kind of … hoping that it wasn’t too close to the ND flats or school buildings in London and that it wouldn’t seriously affect the program at all,” she said.

But junior Maria Ricaurte, who is also headed to London, said the immediate contact from Notre Dame was reassuring.

“We got an email from the school saying our location wasn’t near the majority of [the riots],” she said. “They really emphasized that the security in the flats we’d be staying at is really reliable.”

Kucich said emergency protocols will be developed as needed to keep London Program students safe.

“We are also prepared to transmit police updates on any developing civil disturbance rapidly to students, providing security advice through text messages and emails,” he said.

Conway Hall, the student residence in the Waterloo area, is currently staffed by security personnel 24 hours a day, every day of the week. Security personnel will also man the London Program’s classroom building in Trafalgar Square at all hours for the foreseeable feature, Entrikin said.

“The London Program has an excellent system for monitoring developments throughout the greater London area,” he said.

Kucich said the riots will also be discussed in an academic setting.

“The complex social, economic, and political forces behind the unrest will become an important area of cultural study,” he said.

Junior Ben Foley said he is not very concerned about safety, since the program’s classroom building and residence building are both in safe areas of Central London.

“As we explore more of London we should be a little more careful, I think,” Foley said.

Ricaurte agreed that as students begin to venture out of Central London, they should be more cautious and aware of their surroundings.

“As we start traveling the suburbs of London, we’re definitely going to take more precautions,” she said.

The London Program and OIS staffs will continue to monitor circumstances in London, as well as any U.S. State Department information about travel to and within the United Kingdom, Entrikin said.

As staffs monitor the situation in London, Kucich said any appropriate changes will be made, if necessary, to the London Program.

“The University of Notre Dame is committed to providing a rich educational experience for students in London while taking all appropriate measures to provide a safe living and learning environment,” he said.