Update on Colby College China Issue

In my original post about the alleged incident in Colby’s faculty led program to China, I had mentioned that would report back once I had a reply to my message to Colby College’s President’s office.  Yesterday, after calling again, I received a call back from Sally Baker, Vice President and Secretary of the College, who is handling press requests regarding the alleged incident in China.

I thanked her for the school’s professionalism in writing to their campus community about the alleged incident.  It shows how seriously they are taking it, and as an international educator, I appreciate that they did not attempt to sweep the alleged issue under the rug.

VP Baker was gracious, but explained that it was unlikely that she was going to be able to answer any questions because their priority is to focus on students’ privacy, first and foremost.


I did ask the following questions:

1) Was there training, prior to departure, for faculty who lead courses abroad?


2) I understood (from other press reports) that Professor Brown may have been placed on leave while he and the students were still in China.  Therefore, WHO was in charge of the students at that time?

While VP Baker was able to say that she did have information, she was not able to share it.  I didn’t necessarily expect her to be able to and told her that I understood.

While many schools don’t have a formal training for faculty leading courses abroad (which is always a concern!), I was particularly interested in the second question. If Professor Brown was placed on leave while in China and the students were still in the hotel with him, this would be of concern. While I understand that Colby’s position is that they cannot  about this, it serves as a reminder of the importance of having a clear, defined and practiced emergency process in place prior to a group departing for a course abroad.

For example, did another faculty member accompany this group abroad or did they have a local partner on the ground who was there to support the students during this time? Was there a relationship with the local embassy? Did the State Department get a call to assist these students?  Was a local alum in China available to provide support? Were the students registered with the State Department prior to departure and informed to call them in an emergency?  Did someone from Colby fly to China upon reports of accusations by students?  Were there language and cultural barriersd when dealing with this alleged incident?

The media has not commented on any of this and unfortunately, neither can Colby at this time.

Nevertheless, I hope that this alleged incident has shaken all of us up.  Had it been YOUR program or YOUR student, how would you have expected this to be handled?  Would your school have had measures in place to ensure that the students’ safety was the priority?

Again, I do not write this to imply blame or point the finger at Colby College – for all I know they may have had a master emergency process in place and it may have been handled as smoothly as possible.  Yet this story reaching the major media outlets does force us to re-evaluate our faculty selection process and emergency planning processes.

What are your thoughts about this case? Are you meeting with your emergency planning committee to discuss this new scenario?  Or are you forming a committee as a result of it?  Please share your comments! (You do not need to register to comment on Melibee Global.)