University prohibits sponsored undergraduate travel to China due to Coronavirus outbreak


E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Baggage handlers on the United Airlines jet ramp at O’Hare International Airport, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020.

Isabelle Sarraf, Assistant Campus Editor

COVID-19 News

The University announced in a Monday release that due to the coronavirus outbreak, NU-sponsored undergraduate travel to China is prohibited at this time.

The announcement responds to reports that the U.S. Department of State on Monday established a Level Three travel advisory suggesting Americans “reconsider” travel to China. On the same day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also issued a Level Three health warning, recommending Americans “avoid nonessential travel” to China. Previously, the CDC’s warning only applied to Wuhan, Hubei province.

Luke Figora, senior associate vice president and chief risk and compliance officer, said the decision to prohibit University-sponsored travel was triggered by the escalation of government-issued travel warnings and restrictions. He said NU has a policy that restricts undergraduate-sponsored travel to countries beyond Level Three status.

“The University, at this stage, is strongly recommending against any voluntary travel to the region until we know more or until the various public health departments give different guidance,” Figora said. “At this stage, our policy speaks to undergraduate travel.”

Julie Friend, director of global safety and security, said all undergraduate programs planning trips to China during spring break will be diverted to other locations.

This includes the Medill Global 301 course, “The Journey of the International Student,” in which students explore the intersections of identity, race and culture in journalism. Students in the course planned to travel to Shanghai over spring break, but Friend said it will be re-routed elsewhere, meaning Medill faculty and staff will now have to find and book flights, accommodations and activities for students in the next two months. The course begins meeting Feb. 10.

Medill Prof. Mei-Ling Hopgood, who teaches the Global 301 class, said student safety is the largest consideration in the assessment of the Shanghai program moving forward. Hopgood has led the spring break trip to China since its inception three years ago.

“The safety and security of our students (are) paramount,” Hopgood said. “We have to decide what we need to do to make sure this is a rewarding experience.”

Ceci Rodgers, director of global journalism learning, said she doesn’t think Medill’s long-term programs will be impacted from the coronavirus outbreak.

Friend said no decision has been made on summer and fall study abroad programs in China, because they have time to wait for the outbreak to run its course.

“We have an advantage of being on the (quarter system) calendar,” Friend said. “Our summer programs, particularly the undergraduate study abroad programs, don’t really start until mid- or end of June. That’s why we’re saying those programs are still on schedule.”

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