Citing safety concerns in the wake of a violently disputed presidential election, the University cancelled its spring field semester in Kenya in early January, according to Professor Dan Rubenstein, chairman of the ecology and evolutionary biology department.
Five undergraduates were scheduled to make the trip to Kenya with Ruben-stein, who also directs Princeton’s Program in African Studies. But when President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected in late December, opponents protested, alleging fraud, and a series of deadly clashes followed.
Rubenstein called off the trip Jan. 8, after communicating with friends in Kenya and monitoring news reports for more than a week. He told President Tilghman and other Princeton officials that parts of the 12-week itinerary could pose a risk for students and professors. “The key is that I would never put students in a situation where violence is common and occurs at unpredictable times and places,” Rubenstein said in an e-mail to PAW.
Four of the affected students will join Princeton’s tropical biology semester in Panama, while the fifth, who studied in Panama last year, will remain on campus.
The Kenya semester, which began in 2006, featured hands-on courses in conservation, the natural history of mammals, and restoration ecology, taught at several sites, including the Princeton-affiliated Mpala Conservancy, a 48,000-acre ranch and research area established by George Small ’43.
Several Princeton faculty and students have conducted research in Kenya. Professor Jeanne Altmann was working in Amboseli, near the Tanzanian border, at the time of the recent election and returned to Princeton two weeks after the violence began. Rubenstein said he plans to continue his research at Mpala this summer, as long as “calm and normalcy return.”