Professor seeks winter term course in Egypt despite security concerns
Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 00:09
Among the many course options for the new winter term is “Egypt: Continuity & Change,” which will take place entirely in Egypt. According to course instructor Stephen Nimis, the class promises to stray a bit outside the conventional classroom experience, while keeping the safety of students a top priority.
“Egypt is going to be our classroom,” Nimis said. “A typical tour is designed to keep you in a bubble. It’s a little bit false. The way we do it, you’re always in Egypt and you’re aware of Egypt around you.”
While there will be some reading, presentations and other coursework involved, Nimis said he does not think students should simply read when they can experience.
“There’s a lot to read about Egypt, but I don’t want people reading about Egypt while they’re in Egypt,” Nimis said.
The program is centered around guided tours of multiple locations throughout Egypt, which carefully and mindfully avoid areas that are known to be dangerous.
Nonetheless, the recent widespread unrest in the region has raised questions as to whether the trip is really a good idea this year.
Anthropology department chair, Mark Peterson, who spent several years teaching at the American University in Cairo, said that in Egypt, there are certain defined spaces where political protests have been known to take place, and the number of them has been growing.
“Since Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July, the protests have grown in size, they’ve grown in aggression and violence, and they are occurring in many places around the country, completely outside these defined political spaces,” Peterson said.
The violence is increasing due to the military-headed government’s attempts to contain the violence by protesters, according to Peterson.
“There’s a kind of growing cycle of violence taking place, far in excess of anything that we’ve seen in the country prior to this time,” Peterson said.
This news brings up questions about the safety of students studying in Egypt, but Nimis said he and the university make safety a top priority.
“Study abroad has gotten more and more important to the university, and they have a whole protocol by which they establish safety,” Nimis said.
As a part of this protocol, Nimis has been meeting with the registrar and provost, as well as Miami faculty with expertise on the region, to assess the security risks and determine whether or not to cancel the course. Despite the volatile situation, there remains a high student interest in the course.
Junior international studies major Corey Brincks has followed the situation in Egypt closely and thinks safety is a matter of being aware.
“The challenge with the news exposure bias is that you see everything that’s happening that’s bad and you think, ‘this must be happening all across Egypt,’” Brincks said.
Though he is not going to Egypt this winter, he said he would love to.
“I think it would be a sobering experience but also a very powerful learning experience because you will be experiencing a moment in Egyptian history first hand,” Brincks said.