Capitol Hill is not safe. On Sept. 11, no alarms rang to evacuate Congress. Everyone ran out of offices.
Also, while leading a Capitol tour, Capitol policemen gave me completely wrong instructions pertaining to the accessibility of the Senate visitor’s gallery and where the nearest exit was.
Finally, no staff member ? not even the congresswoman ? knew that house offices were being evacuated for environmental testing due to anthrax until we watched CNN.
Numerous staffers have told me that I should discontinue my internship.
They maintain that nobody can guarantee my safety on the Hill, and that because I am not paid, I have no reason to work under stressful conditions.
In truth, I have received more concern voiced about my situation in Washington, D.C. from staffers that I work with than from the political science department, which sponsors the Washington Semester Program.
Until this week, no professor had contacted me since mid-August to question my well-being.
I worry about next semester’s Washington interns as they may confront greater dangers.
I applied to the program believing that I could complete the semester and receive 16 credits. Now, I am unsure of staying until December.
If I leave Washington immediately due to another unexpected incident, how will I conclude the semester and still receive credits for which I have worked and paid tuition?
Nobody knows how disturbing events on the Hill are unless they have insider information.
I urge students to reconsider this internship until certain precautions are taken.
It is imperative that the university maintains contact with its student interns, and that it consider actions to take in the event that students must hastily abandon this internship.
Also, students must decide very carefully before they choose to take on this challenge. The concern of being able to complete the full semester is real.
These are unprecedented times, and just as the government is producing new policies in response to terrorism, other institutions ? including UR ? must follow suit.
I hope that the Washington Semester continues ? the practical experience this program provides far surpasses knowledge attained through a traditional academic setting.
It can only prosper, however, if students apply while knowing the risks, are able to maintain frequent contact with an authority figure and understand a pre-approved alternate plan if the internship must abruptly end.
Schroeder can be reached at email@example.com.