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Minnesota students studying abroad had a safe year, new report says

For the first time, Minnesota is tracking the health and safety of college students who study abroad. And the results show that 2014-2015 was a pretty safe year, all things considered.

The report, from the state's Office of Higher Education, found that some 10,000 students participated in the Minnesota Study Abroad program between August, 2014 and July, 2015. Of those, 28 were hospitalized while overseas, but everyone returned home safely.

"One of the questions a parent or student has when considering a Study Abroad program is, 'how safe is it?' " said Larry Pogemiller, the higher education commissioner, in a news release accompanying the report. "While even one illness or injury is one too many, this new data offers some assurance that schools are taking their responsibility to students seriously."

The report, which was mandated by a 2014 state law, was inspired by the Minnesota-based Clear Cause Foundation, a group dedicated to making study abroad programs safer. It was founded by Allen and Sheryl Hill, whose 16-year-old son, Tyler, died in 2007 while in Japan on the People to People Student Ambassadors program. Tyler, who lived in Mound, suffered altitude sickness while climbing Mount Fuji and died in a Japanese hospital. The foundation, which was founded in 2010, sponsors a "Safe Journey Academy" that encourages students to create "action plans" for contingencies such as illness, injury, assault, civil unrest or natural disasters.

Minnesota is the first state in the country to require a safety report on study abroad programs, according to the higher education office. By law, it must report deaths, accidents and illnesses of students in study abroad programs. This year's report includes reports from 41 college or university campuses in Minnesota.

U alumni association tries to calm outrage after student group's 9/11 vote

The University of Minnesota Alumni Association is doing damage control after a week of bad publicity about a student group voting against a 9/11 moment of silence.

On Thursday, the association sent an e-mail to U grads to try to calm some of the outrage that followed news reports about the vote.

"This topic has received a great deal of media attention, and we want to provide a current, complete picture, particularly about the University's decision to move forward with a commemoration," said the e-mail from Alison Page, the board chair, and Lisa Lewis, the association president and CEO.

They noted that the Minnesota Student Association, which voted against a 9/11 "moment of recognition" on Nov. 10, is an "independent undergraduate student governing organization." The students rejected the resolution, 36-23, after some members raised concerns that it might inflame anti-Muslim sentiment and cause logistical problems.

The vote prompted a major backlash, particularly on social media, and resulted in a flood of complaints, apparently from many U alums.

On Wednesday, U officials announced that they will move ahead with plans for a 9/11 commemoration to honor the victims. The alumni association said it endorsed the U's decision. It also noted that a U alum, Tom Burnett, was among the victims of the Septemer 11, 2001 attacks.

The association leaders called the incident "a moment of education and debate," and an opportunity "to help current and future students recognize the tragedy of 9/11" and its lasting impact. 

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