As the Board of Regents ramps up its response to the spreading coronavirus — with spring break just one week away — the University of Iowa on Friday asked members of its campus to avoid personal international travel, in addition to the moratorium on university-sponsored travel abroad.
And the University of Northern Iowa canceled all summer study abroad programming — affecting more than 250 students who planned to study in countries like Egypt, Italy and the United Kingdom.
“At UNI, our study abroad programs are different from (Iowa State University) and (University of Iowa) in that we do not use outside vendors — and so we incur great financial risk with our programs,” UNI Provost Jim Wohlpart wrote in a Friday message to his colleagues. “Additionally, students who need these courses to graduate incur academic risk if we cancel these programs at a late date.
“Based on multiple conversations, including with the Study Abroad office, deans, and the Board of Regents office, we have made the decision to cancel our study abroad courses for the coming summer.”
The new UNI cancellations compound cuts all three of Iowa’s public universities already imposed for study abroad programming in the spring semester, and in some cases the summer semester, in countries with extreme travel warnings.
The UI canceled study abroad programming in China, South Korea, Italy and Japan — affecting more than 170 students. Iowa State cancellations in China, South Korea and Italy forced 144 students to return.
Six UNI students have made it home from South Korea and Italy.
And Thursday’s news the Board of Regents is barring all university-sponsored international travel for 30 days — regardless of whether it’s to a country with widespread illness or not — impacted hundreds more, including 255 ISU students just days shy of embarking on study abroad trips over spring break, which begins March 16.
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UNI reported 60 students and six employees had planned trips abroad in the next month — including 52 going with the UNI Wind Ensemble to Europe to perform in Germany, Luxembourg, France and Belgium.
Another six of the derailed UNI travelers had plans to visit Tokyo via Seoul for the World Model U.N. over spring break. And two were headed to France to visit partner schools as college ambassadors, according to UNI spokesman Steve Schmadeke.
The UI reported 120 faculty and staff members had planned international trips during the affected time period, and 91 students had planned sponsored international travel not related to study abroad programming.
Additionally, in a campus message Friday, UI administrators asked members of its campus community to reconsider personal international travel on the horizon.
“We encourage members of the UI community to strongly consider deferring non-essential personal international travel during spring break and in the months ahead,” according to the communication.
All three campuses are working with students to arrange academic alternatives so not to slow their time to graduation.
“Faculty have been asked to work with their department heads and deans to determine next steps to ensure our students continue to have strong learning opportunities and can graduate in a timely fashion,” according to the campus message from UNI’s Wohlpart.
Although ISU and the UI haven’t canceled all summer study abroad sessions like UNI, the regents have warned the situation is fluid — with guidance shifting daily from the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Iowa Department of Public Health.
NO CASES IN IOWA
On Friday, Iowa reported 17 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus to date — with 15 coming back negative and two pending. Forty at-risk people have completed public health monitoring in Iowa, none of whom had symptoms.
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But nationally and internationally, the virus was continuing to spread Friday, with the CDC reporting 164 cases in 19 states and 11 deaths.
Washington state, California and New York have been hit the hardest, although two of Iowa’s neighbors — Illinois and Wisconsin — have reported cases as well.
The World Health Organization on Friday reported more than 98,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,300 deaths, including nearly 100 deaths and more than 2,800 cases in the last 24 hours.
TRIPS IN U.S.
Iowa’s public universities have not canceled sponsored trips within the United States.
“We are following guidance from the CDC and IDPH and Board of Regents,” UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett said. “The CDC and IDPH also have not restricted domestic travel at this time.”
Even as their vigilance increases, all three campuses this week warned against stigma associated with the virus and stressed the importance of maintaining an inclusive campus culture.
“In challenging times we must re-center ourselves around our core values, including especially student success and diversity and inclusion, hallmarks of our vision, mission, and strategic plan,” Wohlpart wrote in his message.
“At this time, we must demonstrate concern for our international students who are affected by the coronavirus in ways that we can’t even imagine. Please embrace them and let them know they are important members of our community.”
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