June 24, 2015
In recent months, emails from concerned alumni and students about human rights conditions in the Gambia have been on the increase.
As you are aware, our PEACE program has a memorandum of understanding with The University of the Gambia. St. Mary’s College also presented Gambia PresidentYahya Jammeh an honorary degree in 2004. We now know that President Jammeh’s attitude towards the LGBTQ community and his threat to kill anyone engaged in a public display of same-sex affection have created new concerns about the safety of PEACE program participants while in the Gambia.
In recent years, students participating in the PEACE program and the number of faculty willing to participate have steadily declined. The decrease in student numbers is quite significant. Only one SMCM student registered for Fall 2015, a significant decrease in a program that generally has about 15 or more participants.
Therefore, due to safety concerns, declining student enrollment, and a possible volatile situation in the Gambia, a decision has been made to pause participation in the PEACE program while it undergoes assessment. As we look at the program and as we monitor the situation in the Gambia, we will keep you informed of our findings and of the future of the PEACE program.
Lastly, join me in thanking Director William “Bill” Roberts for his dedication to the PEACE program. Bill created a travel abroad and learning experience for students that dramatically changed how they viewed the world. We are grateful for his dedication and commitment to St. Mary’s College of Maryland. We are appreciative of his passion for the Gambia and for what this program, arguably a hallmark of this College, means for our students, St. Mary’s College, and the Gambia. We look forward to continuing to work with Bill on ensuring that our students have the best and safest experience we can provide.
Tuajuanda C. Jordan