University students planning to study in China this summer will have to make other plans due to the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
University of California Education Abroad Program has suspended its Summer Quarter programs in Beijing, China, due to concerns over the spread of SARS. It suspended its Spring Quarter sessions in April. The decision came as the UC Office of the President issued systemwide guidelines to minimize the risk of importing SARS to UC campuses.
At least 130 UC students were scheduled to travel to Beijing with EAP during Spring and Summer Quarters. EAP staff stationed abroad, including on-site UC study center directors, will remain in their positions and monitor the local situation in hopes of keeping the Beijing program open this fall.
Bruce Hanna, spokesman for EAP, said many students planned to learn Chinese over the summer in the language program in Beijing to prepare for fall classes there, which have not been suspended. An alternative Chinese language program will be offered to those students through Princeton University in New Jersey and will be held during the same time period.
The EAP staff is hopeful the fall program will remain open, Asia Regional Director Peter Wollitzer said, but there is “serious discussion” about when to let students know whether the program will be suspended.
“Understandably, we’re feeling tremendous pressure from the students, who need to know whether they should sign up for classes in the fall,” Wollitzer said. “It’s a situation completely out of our control. And the decision is really hard to make.”
According to the World Health Organization, over 4,500 people have contracted SARS in China, and 219 people have died there. Most of China’s SARS cases have been in Beijing.
Over 6,900 people are infected with SARS worldwide, and the syndrome has spread to more than 30 countries including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore and Canada. The U.S. has had 65 cases. The EAP programs in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam have not been suspended. No EAP students have been diagnosed with SARS.
“Students [in EAP programs in other SARS-affected countries] are taking careful safety measures such as avoiding crowded trains and buses and minimizing travel,” Hanna said. “Beijing is riskier due to weak social services such as reliable transportation, hospitals and means of communication.”
This is not the first time an EAP program has been suspended due to health concerns. The China program was suspended in the 1990s due to concerns over an outbreak of dengue fever, Hanna said.
The Office of the President is recommending that, until travel advisories are modified, campus officials suspend upcoming programs that host groups of students from SARS-affected countries. UC Berkeley has already done so, blocking approximately 500 students from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan from studying there this summer.