With SARS cases sweeping Asia, the war with Iraq and Yale’s new international travel advisory, some Yale students are changing their plans for the summer and next fall.
A travel advisory sent to students via e-mail Thursday warned against travel to countries with high political risks and SARS cases, and restricts undergraduate travel to 42 politically unstable regions, Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore and Vietnam. Although Yale’s summer programs are not held in places on the list, students hoping to travel to certain countries, particularly in the Middle East, will not be able to use Yale fellowships. Programs such as Yale-in-China have been put on hold pending further news over the next few months.
Yale Center for International and Area Studies Associate Director Nancy Ruther, who serves as secretary to the Yale College Committee on International Education, said she through the policy would not affect many students.
“It is in some ways a de minimus policy,” Ruther said. “It’s partly to help protect those who might be so naive that they wouldn’t be aware of the real dangers.”
Ruther said Yale needs a blanket policy more than other institutions because it does not have highly structured study abroad programs.
International Education and Fellowship Programs Director Barbara Rowe said most students do not apply for fellowships in the countries listed. IEFP will help students make alternate plans if necessary, she said.
Yale-in-China Program Officer Argo Caminis e-mailed applicants to the program before the release of the travel advisory to say selection had been postponed indefinitely because of concerns about SARS. The health travel advisory released Thursday restricts undergraduate travel to China, as well as Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam.
“Given the University policy and uncertainly as to whether the restriction would be lifted on June 26, it seems very unlikely that we would be able to send interns to Hong Kong and mainland China this summer,” Caminis said in the e-mail.
Students whose travel plans were affected by the new travel policies had mixed reactions.
Ryan Levine ’05 applied to a program in China for the fall and is unsure whether he will be able to go.
Paige Austin ’06, who is going to Morocco with a Yale fellowship after changing her plans to go to Syria, said she understands the University’s concern but thinks students should be permitted to make their own decisions in cooperation with knowledgeable Yale faculty.
“I’m not a fan of [the travel advisory] at all as someone who’s interested in studying Arabic and someone who’s traveled widely. I prefer to evaluate myself,” she said. “I would appreciate the school taking a more nuanced view of people’s plans and I would say that if people are in close contact with the YCIAS, or professors on the fellowship committees, or the international study abroad office that they should be able to come up with an individualized package.”
The Provost-Secretary Task Force, chaired by Ruther, will review appeals within three to four business days of the request and determine if exceptions should be made.
Gabrielle Goodfellow ’04 said she revised her fellowship application twice because of safety concerns, but said she thinks the University precautions are justified. She planned to go to study in Jordan and then in Syria, which are both on the travel advisory list, but said she is happy that she now has arrangements to go to Morocco.
“I’ve never really traveled to the Middle East, so I’m not sure if they’re overreacting a little or what. I really think they have our best interests in mind and I think being overcautious is better than putting students at risk,” she said.
The SARS restriction is more complex and subject to change because the situation is more likely to change quickly than the political situation, Ruther said.
Other schools have had similar debates about whether to restrict travel. Stanford University announced in December 2001 it would not provide university funds for travel to countries with State Department travel warnings. Princeton University also does not sponsor travel to countries with travel warnings. Columbia University has restricted organized study-abroad programs to Israel and Indonesia. Harvard University is now developing a policy but prohibited the use of university funds for undergraduate travel to India, Israel and Madagascar in the summer of 2002. The University of Pennsylvania restricts undergraduate travel to Israel.
Yale’s policy distinguishes itself from those at other schools because it is not based exclusively on the State Department travel warnings, Ruther said. She said the task force will update the travel advisory Web site as situations change and release completely updated lists of warnings before each term.