Qatar campus unaffected by war in Iraq

U.S. military action against the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq apparently has not affected everyday activity at VCU’s College of Design Arts in Qatar.

“So far it’s been extremely quiet,” said Richard Toscan, dean of the School of the Arts. “Students are still coming to class, and faculty are still committed to teaching them.”

Toscan last heard from the U.S. Embassy in Qatar about two weeks ago. The ambassador, he said, reported that he did not think any Americans would have to evacuate during the U.S. war with Iraq.

“Qatar is a low-risk country – unusually so in the region,” Toscan said. “(Faculty) still feel safer there than they ever did in Richmond. It’s difficult to know if faculty there are at any more risk than faculty here.”

Toscan, who is in daily contact with the Qatar design campus through telephone or e-mail, said faculty haven’t changed their behavior, but “some say shopkeepers aren’t as friendly as they were.”

Nonetheless, if faculty were forced to leave, Toscan said, the school has identified a place in Western Europe where faculty could be evacuated.

He refused to specify the location.

In January Toscan visited the campus in Doha. While he was there, he said, the U.S. military’s presence “wasn’t visible at all,” but now there’s a little more visibility though flights still don’t take off and land over the city.

“I think that’s kind of deliberate,” Toscan said. “The United States is trying to be a good guest.”

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