Local News

Parents upset UNC kicked daughter out of study abroad program

Posted September 16, 2009 4:51 p.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2009 5:28 p.m. EDT

— A Raleigh man said he plans to meet with University of North Carolina officials after his daughter was dismissed from her study abroad program and was left to fend for herself on the streets of Cape Town, South Africa.

Alyssa Valdez, a senior business major at UNC-Chapel Hill, went to South Africa for a semester to boost her chances of landing a job in international business, said her parents, Luis and Merribeth Valdez.

She spent two weeks in Cape Town, touring the mountains and even walking with penguins, but she was kicked out of the program  without warning before classes started, her parents said.

They said a professor accused the girl of breaking the code of conduct and told her she had to leave.

"She woke Alyssa up, and she basically threatened Alyssa and told her (that), if she did not pack her stuff immediately, she was going to contact the police and have her thrown out," Merribeth Valdez said.

Luis Valdez said his daughter was accused of excessive partying and allowing a man to stay after hours at the house for UNC students. A man did slept on a couch at the house, Merribeth Valdez said, but the couple said they don't think their daughter did anything wrong.

Alyssa Valdez signed a code of ethics before taking the trip.

“Based on the information we have at this time, the on-site faculty adviser made safe accommodations available to the student and offered additional assistance, which the student declined," UNC spokesewoman Karen Moon said in a release Wednesday. "Federal privacy laws preclude us from providing further detail, but our preliminary review of the facts about this situation indicates that this matter was handled appropriately."

Lyn Gullan, the mother of two UNC students who lives on the outskirts of Cape Town, said she took Alyssa Valdez in for a few days until she could arrange for a flight back to North Carolina.

Gullan said Cape Town is notorious for its high rate of violent crimes, and she said she was appalled that a female college student was left on the streets of the city with her packed bags, without any UNC officials checking on her well-being before she left the country.

"She would have been the ultimate target for Cape Town crime," Gullan said in an e-mail provided to WRAL News by Luis Valdez. "What is worse is that a university of high standing such as UNC allowed this to happen."

The Valdezes echoed Gullan's concerns and said they hope to address the issue next week in meetings with UNC President Erskine Bowles and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp.

"Alyssa was left out there on the streets of South Africa," Merribeth Valdez said. "She could have been raped. She could have been murdered – killed – and no one cared. All we got were e-mails."