UC Berkeley bars students from SARS areas from summer school

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- New students from the SARS-affected areas of China, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong are not welcome at the University of California this summer, campus officials say.

"After close consultation with several public health officials and campus experts, and based on the strong recommendation of the City of Berkeley Health Officer, I deeply regret that we will not be accepting enrollments of students from these areas," campus Chancellor Robert Berdahl said in a message posted on the campus Web site Friday.

The decision affects several hundred students who were planning to attend Berkeley for summer school sessions, which begin May 27. Instead, those students will get their money back.

There have been no cases of SARS at UC Berkeley.

In his message to the campus community, Berdahl said the reason for the decision was that students coming from SARS-affected areas would have to be monitored for 10 days. If any developed SARS-related symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would require "elaborate procedures be implemented that would include isolation and other labor intensive measures that we are not able to provide currently," Berdahl wrote. Officials are working on creating such a system for students arriving from SARS-affected areas, Associate Chancellor John Cummins said Monday.

Students who go home to these countries for the summer, and new students arriving from China, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong for the fall semester will be required to fill out detailed questionnaires, and will be monitored by university health officials for 10 days when they arrive at Berkeley, Berdahl wrote.

The chancellor said the policy will expire if the CDC lifts travel advisories to the affected areas.

While many universities have wrestled with how to deal with severe acute respiratory syndrome, the flu-like illness blamed that has killed at least 449 people and sickened more than 6,300, mostly in China and Hong Kong, UC Berkeley's outright ban on incoming students appears to be unusual.

Cummins said officials felt they had no choice.

"The principal concern has to do with controlling SARS first and foremost. Second, we have a very large population of students coming from the affected areas and so that had a major influence in terms of reaching the decision," he said.

Berdahl is also recommending that faculty, staff and students not travel to SARS-affected areas. UC Berkeley previously suspended a study abroad program in Beijing this summer and has recalled all students who were studying there.

Berdahl noted that Toronto and Hanoi, where there have been a number of SARS deaths, are also areas of concern. But he said the CDC is not currently advising against traveling there, so students from those areas will be allowed to enroll this summer. However, Berdahl said students from Hanoi and Toronto will be contacted and provided with information about campus policies.


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