Update on Activities in El Salvador
March 30, 2016
On March 9, 2016, I emailed the SCU community with the news that, after careful study and reflection, Santa Clara University had suspended its longstanding Casa program in El Salvador due to the concerning safety trends that emerged in fall of 2015. Since that time, hundreds of alumni and supporters of the Casa program have communicated to me their deep sadness about the news. I have appreciated hearing about the transformative impact that the Casa program had on their lives and the myriad ways that this lived experience continues to influence them to this day. They have passionately written about the importance of providing this opportunity to future generations of Casa students and of sustaining our solidarity with the Salvadorian people. The outpouring of support for the Casa program affirms what has been known for a long time– Casa is a distinctive program with a profound impact.
While Santa Clara University recognizes the extraordinary value of the Casa program, the University must also take seriously its responsibility for the safety and well-being of the students and staff associated with our activities in El Salvador. After extensive consultation, we have decided to adopt one of the “best practices” often used in evaluating safety concerns and addressing risks: we are preparing to perform a comprehensive, on-the-ground risk assessment of our programs in El Salvador. This will include sending a delegation to El Salvador to work with Kevin and Trena Yonkers-Talz, the on-site co-directors, to assess the specific safety risks, explore potential mitigation strategies, and establish criteria for the conditions under which the Casa program could continue. The risk assessment report (anticipated in June 2016) will inform the next steps we take regarding the suspension of the Casa program and related activities in El Salvador. We continue the practice of reviewing, on a case-by-case basis, all requests for sponsored travel (e.g., immersion experiences, summer research, etc.) to countries for which there is an active U.S. State Department Travel Warning.
Santa Clara University continues to financially support Kevin and Trena Yonkers-Talz and the Casa program staff as we explore creative ways to further SCU’s relationship with our vital community and institutional partnerships in El Salvador. This includes sustaining the Romero Scholars Program that supports Salvadoran scholarship students (becarios) in their pursuit of higher education and deepening our collaboration with the Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” (UCA) in San Salvador.