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UC Berkeley lifts some limits it had placed on summer attendance by students from SARS-affected areas

Text of Chancellor's May 10 update on campus SARS policy for international summer school students

– The University of California, Berkeley, will allow an estimated 80 foreign students from areas with significant SARS outbreaks to attend summer classes, a lifting of some limits it recently placed on summer enrollment, Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl said Saturday.

The campus was able to modify that policy for two reasons. First, it worked aggressively to put special housing in place should students from areas hard hit by SARS develop a cough, cold or fever. Second, by limiting the overall total number of students arriving from SARS-affected areas, it can better manage necessary precautions.

A week ago, the campus announced that it would restrict summer enrollment for all students from countries hardest hit by the deadly SARS virus.

"We are updating our policy in appropriate ways to accommodate as many students as possible from SARS-affected areas without compromising the health of any member of the Berkeley community," said Berdahl at a campus press conference.

"One of the joys of being chancellor is welcoming students from around the world to this wonderfully diverse and international place," he said. "I am delighted that we will be able to accommodate safely more international students this summer than we had originally anticipated."

The approximately 80 students from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan represent the entire group of students from SARS-stricken areas who intended to take core academic classes in UC Berkeley Summer Sessions. Most of them are from Hong Kong.

More than 500 other students from these areas who hoped to take English as a Second Language classes this summer through the campus's UC Extension program cannot be accommodated at this time, he said.

The campus initially thought it would need to restrict summer enrollment for all students from these regions, as it had limited ability to provide care and service if more than a few required isolation due to symptoms of respiratory tract infection.

Late Friday, the chancellor said he learned from campus housing and health officials that some units at UC Berkeley's Clark Kerr campus can now provide necessary space for isolation, evaluation and monitoring. The campus has a health care facility, but no hospital.

"We had a very large number (of students), larger than we could accommodate with an isolation facility and health officials who could care for them," said Berdahl.

The campus worked diligently to find a solution, said Berdahl, in part because "we are also very concerned that our decision to limit enrollment in our summer programs has created the impression here and abroad that UC Berkeley was actually banning students from studying here or not welcoming Asian students at all. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Classes for 30 of the some 80 students begin May 27. Other students will arrive for summer classes later in the term.

"Everything we're doing is in accordance with CDC guidelines," said Berdahl, who also is being advised by a SARS task force that includes public health experts from campus and the city of Berkeley. He added that he had spoken twice recently with Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC director, and that she agreed UC Berkeley's problem was a "volume" problem. "Eighty is more manageable than 600," Berdahl said.

Berdahl stressed that Saturday's announcement is not a reversal of the earlier policy, but a modification.

"Our policies, as we have said from the outset, are flexible and will continue to be, because we receive new information about this epidemic every day," he said.

The chancellor noted that further updates to the summer enrollment policy may occur. UC Extension summer classes don't begin until July, he said, giving the campus more time to assess whether it can accommodate more students from SARS-affected areas.