05/31/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Haiti Travel Ban Flap Endangers Florida Grad Students' Project

University of Florida graduate students Jon Bougher and Roman Safiullin were
in Haiti collecting footage for their thesis on a philanthropic organization when January's massive earthquake occurred. Determined to continue with their project, they subsequently returned to the country to finish it.

But the University of Florida has ruled that they cannot use the additional footage because they defied a school-sanctioned travel ban in going back to Haiti -- and now Bougher and Safiullin may not be able to graduate.

In February, the university established a policy banning UF-sponsored travel to Haiti, so all the material gathered after the earthquake cannot be used in the students' final project.

According to UF spokesman Steve Orlando, the university's travel policy is meant to ensure student safety. The university is not certain students who travel there would have access to food, water and shelter, Orlando said.

The controversy has put the university in an awkward position, caught between safety policy and academic freedom. Inside Higher Ed has more:

To the students and their professors, the ban is a threat to their academic and artistic freedom. From the university's perspective, it's an issue of liability: The students ignored institutional rules and put themselves in danger.

"Never in my professional life had anybody told me what could or couldn't be in a student's thesis," said Churchill Roberts, the students' adviser and co-director of the Documentary Institute in the university's College of Journalism and Communications. "It's contrary to anything I've ever seen at a university. It's so absurd that some outside person would come in and dictate what the story should be."

For now, Bougher and Safiullin's project remains incomplete.

What do you think? Should Bougher and Safiullin be allowed to gradaute?