Thomas A. Stewart
While the University of Iowa has not university-suspended domestic travel, one UI program has canceled service trips due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Hawkeye Service Breaks announced Wednesday that all future service break trips were canceled. The program seeks to immerse students in service learning while promoting social justice and community building.
Students were set to leave Saturday and return March 19, during the course of the University of Iowa’s spring break. Office of Leadership, Service, and Civic Engagement Coordinator Charlotte Brown said 177 people in total were going to travel, including 12 student leaders and 12 instructors.
Groups were scheduled to travel to these cities:
Kansas City, Missouri
As a course-credit-earning trip, Hawkeye Service Breaks, Brown said students could do an alternative assignment to receive credit. The program leaders are currently working to figure out what those alternatives will look like, she added.
“We’re working on developing what that looks like right now and should have clear answers that we’ll communicate with students in the following days,” Brown said.
Students also paid a course fee, which Brown said the program is “looking into” when asked if participants would be reimbursed. They will communicate with students on that in the coming days.
UI junior Michael Aragon-Jaques, a student leader who was going to travel to St. Louis to work with nonprofits with a focus on education equity, said the Hawkeye Service Breaks Executive Board consulted with student leaders before ultimately deciding to cancel the trips.
Aragon-Jaques said he and other students were disappointed to learn they wouldn’t be going, but he understood that students’ safety is the most important thing. Brown agreed, saying the health of those going and the people in the communities they would be interacting with were paramount.
Leaders in the program have been planning the trips since August, and students have been learning about the communities they would be visiting since the beginning of the semester.
“The risk outweighed the precautions that we could take in ensuring our participants’ health and safety on the trip,” Aragon-Jaques said.
Abigail Dickson was supposed to go to Milwaukee to collaborate with nonprofits on urban housing, but said she’s staying at home in Iowa City and not planning on doing anything specific since she already took off work. The UI senior said she’s disappointed, but understands their reasons for canceling. Before she learned they were nixing the trip, she said she was most worried about carrying the virus to others.
“I was looking forward to the trip, and I think the hysteria is very strong right now, but I understand why they did it,” Dickson said.
Communication between the program and students has been good, Dickson said, but they didn’t really start talking about the coronavirus until this week. She plans to do an alternative assignment over break.
Brown said students can see this as a learning experience and look at how active citizenship works in the face of a pandemic.
“Our goal is that all the participants in the leaders still get something beneficial out of the experience we’ve had this semester and can learn and continue their growth as active citizens, because it’s not just about one week anyway, it’s about how we care for our communities all year round,” Brown said.
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