While Yale student organizations will no longer be allowed to travel to regions of West Africa affected by the Ebola epidemic, the policy is unlikely to have a large effect on students or student organizations.
In an email to the Yale community, Provost Benjamin Polak and Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin strongly advised students against travelling to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone or Nigeria. For the near future, students will not receive credit or funding for study in these nations, nor will student organizations be permitted to travel to the region.
“[The policy] will have very little impact,” said Elizabeth Bradley, master of Branford College and director of the Yale Global Health Initiative. “These are not countries where there’s a large group of students that go abroad to study.”
Yale Health medical director Michael Rigsby echoed Bradley’s statements in a Wednesday email. He added that community members who travel to the region must undergo comprehensive registration procedures before departure and thorough evaluation upon return.
Still, some student groups have canceled trips in other parts of West Africa.
Yale Global Brigades, a student-run group dedicated to international development, will discontinue any planning for service trips to Ghana this year because of the Ebola outbreak. On Wednesday, the national umbrella organization Global Brigades announced that it had canceled all the fall and winter trips to Ghana, as it may be one of the next regions affected by the virus.
“I expect [the epidemic] to have negative long-term ramifications for both the organization and the Ghana communities,” Sarah Sutphin ’17, a campus leader of Yale Global Brigades and copy staffer for the News, said in an email.
Sutphin added that she is certain Yale’s ban will impact Global Brigades’ activities in the future.
While the vast majority of student plans were impacted neither by Yale’s restriction nor the epidemic itself, Talya Lockman-Fine ’15 had planned on traveling to Liberia in the next few months to conduct research for her major. But it didn’t take the email from Genecin and Polak to convince her not to go.
“The current situation in Liberia had made me worried about the viability of traveling there this December, independent of Yale’s revised travel policy,” she wrote in a Wednesday evening email. Lockman-Fine said she knows of no other students impacted by the change.
The ban may touch organizations beyond the student community. The Ghana-Yale Partnership for Global Health, which conducts field-based collaborations on HIV and parasitic diseases, is still active in the country. While the Partnership’s work has not yet been significantly impacted by the epidemic, the circumstances could change quickly, said Michael Cappello, director of the Yale World Fellows Program.
Since the World Health Organization declared the epidemic an “public health emergency of international concern” on Aug. 8, other Ivies, including Harvard, Brown and Princeton, have issued similar warnings to Yale’s.
The emails all asked the students and faculty members to avoid any nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone. These earlier messages did not mention Nigeria, whose first case of Ebola was discovered more recently.
As of Sept. 10, Ebola had infected at least 5,232 people and killed approximately 2,500.