New federal regulations on studying in Cuba could cancel a proposed Indiana University course in geography and telecommunications.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations prohibit students from traveling to Cuba for courses that last less than 10 weeks.
That would block IU from offering the course scheduled to start next summer. It would have included 12 days of field work near Santa Clara, Bloomington’s sister city in central Cuba.
Kathleen Sideli, director of the IU’s Office of Overseas Programs, said IU and other universities may try to head off the interim regulations, which take effect June 30.
“We’re just trying to figure out what’s the best approach,” she told the Herald-Times for a story Saturday. “It seems like an extremely strict response to what I suppose some legislators thought were abuses.”
The regulations are part of new restrictions on U.S.-Cuba commerce recommended by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which President Bush appointed in October 2003.
The rules are aimed at preventing American travelers from spending tourism money that could be used to strengthen Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
“Overall, we’re focusing on keeping the hard currency and travel-related dollars out of the Cuban economy, which is ultimately controlled by Castro,” said Treasury Department spokeswoman Molly Millerwise. “The regulations reflect our effort to ensure that only serious and legitimate educational activities are taking place.”
The new regulations also require students who study in Cuba to be enrolled in degree programs at the institutions sponsoring the courses. They also say that only full-time, permanent employees of the institutions may accompany students.
University officials say the rules would end most U.S. study programs in the island country.
“Everybody’s trying to figure out what’s a reasoned approach to this,” Sideli said. “We truly feel that students are going to be prevented from doing something that’s extraordinarily educational.”
The course resulted from several years of talks between sister-city volunteers and university officials in Santa Clara.