University of California initiates evacuation of students and faculty from Iraq

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The UC system is initiating the evacuation of UC students, faculty and staff from Iraq after a surge of recent Islamist militant seizures.

Campus professor Ron Gronsky, special faculty assistant to the chancellor for international relations, sent out a “special plea” to UC Berkeley deans, directors and chairs Friday morning, asking for individuals to notify campus risk manager Andrew Goldblatt if they knew of any UC affiliates in Iraq.

There are no known UC Berkeley students or faculty in Iraq as of Friday afternoon, according to Goldblatt. The UC system has one affiliate in Iraq, but his or her identity cannot be confirmed, Goldblatt said.

The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning Wednesday cautioning U.S. citizens against visiting Iraq. The warning came after Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, was captured by Islamist militants Tuesday, causing half a million civilians to flee. Another city 95 miles from the capital Baghdad was taken Wednesday.

Goldblatt said the campus administration is trying to find UC Berkeley affiliates who are not enrolled in UC trip insurance, since it can only be certain about the whereabouts of students and faculty who sign up for the university’s travel insurance.

“When people don’t sign up, it causes delays,” Goldblatt said in an email. “This should be a strong incentive for UC travelers to sign up for the travel coverage.”

During this time of the year, most UC travelers are faculty and graduate students conducting research, according to Goldblatt.

Last July, the university issued an evacuation order of UC students, faculty and staff from Egypt and suspended the study abroad program in Cairo after the removal of the president and the creation of a military-led interim government.

Unlike in Egypt, however, the UC study abroad office does not offer any programs in Iraq. UC Berkeley does not have official agreements with any universities in Iraq, according to Gronsky.

“We have a very well-defined system,” Gronsky said, referring to campus evacuation protocols. “I hope we don’t have to use it. But we are prepared if needed.”


Somin Park is a news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @_sominpark.