With nearly 600 students studying out of the country every semester, the University of Pennsylvania is perhaps the region’s most global campus, and it’s feeling the impact of the coronavirus.
The Ivy League university has brought students home from China and Singapore. It’s canceled some study abroad courses scheduled for next month’s spring break, which typically involve hundreds of students.
Penn’s Wharton China Center in Beijing was closed in accordance with that city’s guidelines, and the university also canceled a large meeting in Singapore. University officials were talking Friday about how to handle a meeting scheduled for India.
“We are seeing a lot of disruption,” said Ezekiel J. Emanuel, Penn’s vice president for global initiatives and founding chair of the department of bioethics at the National Institutes of Health. “There are a lot of questions that we’re having to settle on the fly. In the face of a great deal of uncertainty, do we bring our students back? What are the policies regarding course credit? These are big and challenging issues.”
And they are issues that colleges across the region are confronting as the virus spreads.
Temple University said Friday said it was suspending travel through April 30 to South Korea, where the alert level was raised, and advised a small group of students studying there to immediately leave the country. Temple also is closing its Japan campus for two weeks, starting on Monday, and teaching those classes online. Students at Temple’s Rome campus also were advised they could leave the country and continue their education online, starting March 9.
In New Jersey, Rowan University suspended most travel for students and staff, including researchers. Rutgers-Camden canceled a spring break trip to Japan; students paid $3,750 for their trip, and the university is looking at waiving the fee.
Pennsylvania State University halted student travel to China and South Korea and canceled short-term faculty led courses in Italy and Japan.
“This is complex and rapidly evolving, and travel recommendations and restrictions may change as the situation changes,” the university said in a statement.
Villanova University this week canceled a study abroad program in Italy and began efforts to bring the students home. The university Friday instructed students coming back from Italy not to return to campus for 14 days. (Spring break is next week.)
Universities also have begun updating plans for how to cope if the disease takes hold in the United States. Other issues under consideration include how to accommodate families from China who want to attend their children’s graduation from U.S. universities. More immediately, schools are having to find ways to accommodate international students who can’t go home for break.
Students who do travel to countries under high alert levels will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days when they return, Penn’s Emanuel said. So far, Penn has only brought eight students home, four each from China and Singapore. The students in Singapore, he said, were brought home largely because their dorm was taken over for quarantine use.
But he’s getting emails from students, faculty and parents, asking about different countries.
Penn hasn’t yet moved to bring students home from Italy, but the situation could change. Penn has a team monitoring conditions in every country, he said.
“The biggest problem is decision-making under uncertainty,” he said. “When you’re dealing with decisions that affect thousands of people on campus and millions and millions of dollars, it raises the stakes a lot.”