Summer programs in Mexico canceled

Due to concerns arising from the recent swine flu outbreak in Mexico, Yale administrators announced Tuesday that they will not hold either the Yale Summer Session course in Mexico or the International Bulldogs internship program, both of which are hosted by the university Tecnológico de Monterrey (Monterrey Tech).

The decision was made after officials at Monterrey Tech requested that Yale postpone the program until summer 2010, University Secretary Linda Lorimer said. Nineteen students were planning to participate in the two programs, and the University has offered to help the affected students find alternative programs for the summer, Dean of International Affairs Jane Edwards said.

“I wish that it hadn’t been necessary to do this,” she said.

In an email sent to all affected students Tuesday, Edwards told the students that they will be able to apply to open positions within the International Bulldogs program and the Bulldogs Across America program, apply to non-Yale-based study abroad programs or take courses at Yale through the summer session program. Affected students can set up appointments with counselors at the Center for International Experience and Undergraduate Career Services, she said, adding that the majority of the affected students have already done so.

Administrators are also barring undergraduates from using Yale fellowships and grants to travel to Mexico, following the U.S. State Department’s standing travel advisory urging American citizens to limit non-essential travel to the country. Tuesday’s decision does not apply to students planning to study abroad in Mexico during the 2009-’10 academic year, Edwards added.

While UCS Director Phil Jones described the decision as a “big disappointment for everybody,” he said UCS is working to find the best alternatives available for students.

“We’re trying to do the best we can to accommodate students,” he said. “We’ve been … working one on one with students to try and figure out what else we can do to minimize their disappointment for the summer.”

Regardless of whether they end up going abroad, Yale students on financial aid who received an International Summer Award to pay for the programs will still receive the summer earnings grant, which covers the expected student income contribution for the summer. Students who do not go abroad this summer will be eligible to receive a second International Summer Award, which is customarily given to students only once while at Yale.

Twelve students were set to participate in the Bulldogs in Monterrey program, while seven had enrolled in the “Public Health in Action” course in Monterrey.

Dan Geoffrion ’10, who would have been working as a Bulldogs intern at the Ministry of Economic Development in Mexico, said he feels that the decision to not to hold the program was made too soon, because he believes swine flu has been less severe than anticipated.

“It seems like fears were overblown,” he said. “I got an e-mail from my boss today saying we’re looking forward to seeing you in a couple weeks. It’s very frustrating and very disappointing.”

But Naomi Rogers, an associate professor in the history of medicine department who specializes in the history of infectious outbreaks, said Yale has acted prudently by deciding not to hold the program this year.

“I think this decision represents Yale’s thoughtful efforts to protect its students at a time and in a situation where not much can be done,” she said. “It is measured and not extreme, and compares favorably to responses [from] officials in China and Hong Kong who are quarantining not only travelers from Mexico, but also Mexicans living in these countries.”

Jeremy Poindexter ’11, who would have worked as a research assistant through the Bulldogs program at Monterrey Tech, said the timing of the decision was unfortunate but understandable, given that Yale did not have control over the matter. Still, he said, because the decision came during the final exam period, he and other students must now scramble to find a summer job. Poindexter said he appreciated the University’s willingness to offer help.

While Monterrey Tech is currently closed, an alert on the university’s Web site informs all members of its academic community that the university will reopen on May 7.

Florence Dethy and Paul Needham contributed reporting.

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