The “Brandeis in The Hague” study abroad program has been officially canceled, according to Associate Dean of Study Abroad J Scott Van Der Meid. While initially only the semester-long program had been canceled last year, its summer iteration will also come to an end after a final session this year. The program was a collaboration with Leiden University’s Grotius Centre for Legal Studies, which specializes in international law. 

In an email to the Justice, Van Der Meid stressed that canceling the program “was not a decision that was taken lightly,” emphasizing the “excellent collaboration” with Leiden University. The decision to cancel the program was “based on shifting academic priorities at Leiden University, limited student housing and the continued lack of U.S. Federal Financial Aid portability,” he continued.

Per the program’s website, participants would “explore first-hand how international courts confront a range of global problems,” using institutions including the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, while conducting their own research on “a variety of global issues” such as “ethnic violence” and “economic development.” 

Prof. Richard Gaskins (LGLS), who helped to design the program’s curricula and was a faculty member for several semesters and summers, wrote in an email to the Justice that the emphasis of the research was on “analyzing problems from a broad perspective [and] using case studies to explore the global problem of social transitions.” Gaskins described the classes as “small, seminar-style and highly participatory,” and in addition to the “regular visits to international courts,” students met with “judges and human rights experts.” The semester program included “an 8-week practicum placement in one of the courts or human rights organizations,” he added.

Many students chose to do the program to complete major or minor requirements in International & Global Studies, Politics or Legal Studies, Van Der Meid wrote in the same email. Katie Mok ’20, who participated in the program in the summer of 2018, did so because it completed requirements for her Legal Studies minor and because she wanted to study abroad while staying on track to graduate a semester early, she wrote in an email to the Justice. 

Mok said that during the first weeks of the program, participants took classes together about “the history and politics of international governance and international law.” During the last two weeks, they “joined 30+ international students to focus more on international criminal law,” learning from guest lecturers and getting “much more breadth in exposure to the field.” 

In addition, Mok said, they had a “moot court debate” at the end of the program, which “simulat[ed] real-world issues like cross-border drone strikes and asylum-seeking criminals.” The program’s direct work with legal institutions helped her academically, she wrote, adding that “having such friendly and enthusiastic professionals talk so candidly to us encouraged me to consider practicing law one day.”

Sam Cohen ’20 had planned to spend this semester in The Hague as part of the program, which he said would have been a “perfect fit” because he wants to pursue a career in international law, he wrote in an email to the Justice. The practicum in a legal setting was particularly attractive to him, and he believed it would have been “a fantastic opportunity.” Cohen had known “since freshman year that [he] wanted to study abroad in Europe,” and decided on The Hague because it fulfilled requirements in his IGS and Politics majors and he would not have to seek department approval for his courses, Cohen wrote in the same email.

On Aug. 6, 2018, Cohen’s and many others’ study abroad plans came to a halt when they received an email from the Office of Study Abroad saying the program was suspended. In the email, which Cohen provided to the Justice, Van Der Meid referenced the financial aid difficulties the program faced. “We have worked with Leiden over the past year with the hopes that this problem could be resolved in time for the Spring 2019 Hague Program, but to date, there has been no indication of a resolution,” Van Der Meid wrote. In the email, he listed several options Cohen could pursue, including acceptance into the summer 2019 program and alternative study abroad programs.

Cohen felt “a bit betrayed” when he received the email and was “struck” by “how blunt and unexpected the email was.” Additionally, he wrote, “no where [sic] in the email did they offer an apology or specified course of action,” and “because the program would not let us apply to any other abroad programs … none of us had any back up plans.” While the Office of Study Abroad did help him find a new program, Cohen wrote, he was “essentially … starting over from square one” because he “had to go through many of the same application processes again.” 

This semester, Cohen is studying in Geneva, Switzerland with Boston University, and said that he is “quite satisfied” with the program. The program is structured similarly to “Brandeis in The Hague,” he said, and includes the same internship component which drew him to study in The Hague. The Geneva program also has more people and has given him “the opportunity to branch out and meet students from other schools,” he wrote in the email. The drawback, he maintained, is that he “still [has] to get [his] courses approved in order for them to count towards [his] major.”

When Mok found out the program was canceled, she wrote, she was “surprised, considering how strong Brandeis’ legal studies department is and how distinguished Louis Brandeis’ legacy is.” She added that the program was “a significant reason why [she] picked this university in the first place.” Mok said she “felt really lucky to have been in the program at all,” declaring that the program’s end was “a real loss.”