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SARS concerns result in changes, cancellations for UC Berkeley programs abroad

SARS Update
Q&A about the impact of SARS at UC Berkeley

- The ripple effects of the global SARS outbreak are being felt at UC Berkeley in disciplines far afield from health, reaching from MBA students to marching band members.

Ten days ago, a campus task force on SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) was formed by Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl, and it has acted quickly and proactively. For travelers both to and from the campus to SARS-affected countries (primarily China, Singapore and Vietnam at present), the task force decided that students and faculty should follow travel guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their own best judgment.

As a result, the Haas School of Business has chosen to relocate two of its summer programs that had been scheduled to send participants to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing this summer and fall. The school's Evening and Weekend MBA Seminar will now hold its summer programs in Mexico, Panama and Cuba, while the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA seminar will switch its focus to Eastern Europe, according to Sebastian Teunissen, executive director of the Clausen Center for International Business and Policy at Haas.

"We are re-evaluating all of our activities around the world," Teunissen said, noting that another Haas international business development program slated for China this summer might also be revised.

Another Haas session, "Doing Business in Asia," also has "pulled the plug" on the travel study portion of the summer program for undergraduates, said director David Robinson. He said the decision to scrap the program's two weeks in China and Korea was prompted by the State Department's travel advisory, as well as by concerns about the Chinese government's openness regarding SARS. He said he opted against diverting students to a European destination, and hoped instead to reschedule the Asian trip for next year.

"It's a little bit of a disappointment, but I'm very committed to running the program," Robinson said.

Another Summer Session course, History of Premodern China, was canceled at the recommendation of the campus task force. The study tour, sponsored by the East Asian Languages and Cultures Department, had been planning to visit Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an. Summer Session director Gary Penders said the program is closely monitoring the health situation in Asia, but for now is going ahead with a Business Chinese language course slated for Taiwan

The University of California's Education Abroad Program has chosen not to cancel or modify any of its Asian programs at present, but is continuing to track the situation there closely. Bruce Hanna, EOP's director of strategic marketing & communications, said the program is "watching all of our Southeast Asian programs," and will make a decision on whether to cancel or revise this summer's Chinese intensive language program by May 10. Hanna said that based on information from the World Health Organization, the State Department and UC's partner schools abroad, the current risks to students do not merit canceling any EOP programs in Asia.

Alumni travelers are feeling the pinch of SARS as well. Bear Treks, the California Alumni Association's travel program, announced April 16 that it is postponing all three of its planned trips to Asia this summer and fall. Two trips to China's ancient cities and the Yangzi River, which had been scheduled to depart next week and in early May, have been postponed until September and October, according to Bear Treks travel coordinator Kris Jameyson. A November trip to Vietnam and Cambodia also is being put off until sometime in 2004.

One group not normally linked to Asia or health issues that was nonetheless thrown for a loop by SARS is the Cal Marching Band, which has chosen to cancel a trip to China that had been scheduled for next month. "None of us were willing to take the risk" of going to China at this time, said band director Robert Calonico.

The band, which has been planning and raising money for the trip for nearly a year, had been scheduled to perform at three Chinese universities, plus give outdoor concerts at the Great Wall and elsewhere. Calonico said the band was working with its tour promoter to ensure that band members don't suffer financially from the cancellation. The band has also cancelled an April 25 concert on campus that was to preview their performances for the China trip.

"We hope to still make the trip there, possibly next year," Calonico said.

All visitors to campus from SARS-affected countries will be given a handbook to inform them about the signs and symptoms of SARS so that they can monitor their personal health. In addition, they will being given a directory of health services available to them while they are in Berkeley, both through the campus and from the city of Berkeley's Department of Health and Human Services.