University of Virginia Severs Relationship with Semester at Sea

MV Explorer

MV Explorer
image courtesy Wikipedia

On June 13, 2014, several news outlets began reporting the University of Virginia (Uva) had announced its plan to end its sponsorship of Semester at Sea.

The relationship previously had students around the county enrolling as visiting students at University of Virginia, along with UVa students, traveling the world on an older cruise ship while attending onboard UVa accredited classes.

UPDATE – 17 June 2014, one day after posting this article, we received a polite email from Institute for Shipboard Education / Semester at Sea (SaS) saying our article misrepresented some points and asked us to “fix the false implications.”

The points Semester at Sea would like to make are:

  • “the unfortunate incident involving Casey Schulman in Dominica happened on an excursion independent of Semester at Sea.”
  • “the propeller was from that of another ship, nothing to do with the Semester at Sea ship nor a Semester at Sea-endorsed excursion.”
  • “The agreement to discontinue the partnership was entirely mutual.”

We appreciate the Institute for Shipboard Education / Semester at Sea contacting us and correcting what they feel are misstatements in our coverage. Please be sure to review Semester at Sea’s three comments above before drawing any conclusions from this article.

We are not agreeing or disagreeing with Semester at Sea’s comments, but will leave the remainder of our post as it was originally written.


UVa announced their sponsorship relationship with Semester at Sea will end on May 31, 2016. We suspect the year out date was selected as many students book these tours long in advance as well as the vessel may have already made arrangements to port at certain sites.

Casey Schulman

Casey Schulman

As to what this decision has to do with boat propeller safety, Casey Schulman, a Uva student, was killed by a boat propeller during a shore excursion accident on a December 2012 Semester at Sea voyage in Dominica.

University of Virginia has been the economic sponsor of Semester at Sea since 2006.

UVa has not said that Casey Schulman’s death had any bearing on their decision to part ways with Semester at Sea. They only say they had in-depth discussions with the Institute for Shipboard Education (ISE) and mutually agreed it is time for both parties to explore other opportunities.

While some releases say the statement of their impending breakup is prominently displayed on the Semester at Sea website, this morning June 16th, 2014 this is at the very top of Semester at Sea’s home page:

Semester at Sea site, June 16, 2014

Semester at Sea site, June 16, 2014

We also see no mention of the action of UVA Today, University of Virginia’s news page.

We covered this announcement in recognition of the attention we are seeing government institutions, businesses, government agencies, and organizations are beginning to place on boat propeller safety issues and their potential liability in the courtroom or from regulatory agencies.

Backing up a few years, all the focus was on random individuals being injured by propellers. Now governments, businesses, organizations, and universities with people in boats or on the water are are recognizing their potential exposure and beginning to try to reduce that exposure.

While UVa did not publicly recognize the Schulman accident as part of their reasons for severing their relationship with Semester at Sea, one could hardly imagine it was not at least part of the discussion.

UVa has probably joined the list of other entities recognizing or responding to propeller safety risks that began in Australia and the UK.

We have spoken to several other organizations and entities in various stages of responding to some of the events above. We anticipate UVa severing their relationship with Semester at Sea will be one more volley that will awaken even more groups to the recognition of their potential exposure to propeller safety issues.

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