Citing SARS, Harvard Denies Course Credit

Students planning to take academic programs in SARS-affected regions have been told they won’t get credit for their classes—and say they are in “limbo” on whether or not Harvard programs will still fund their travel.

Two weeks ago, the University issued a moratorium on travel to Singapore, Vietnam, China and Toronto—areas that have been struck by SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, a flu-like illness that has killed over 200 people.

Leslie Hill, assistant director of study and work abroad, said that the Office of International Programs’ ban on granting credit for programs in areas affected by SARS is a “temporary moratorium,” and may change in coming months.

But in the meantime, many students’ summer plans are up in the air as a variety of University grant programs are still deciding how to react to the advisory issued April 4.

Director of the Asia Center Dwight H. Perkins said that he does not think students will be allowed to use the Center’s grant money for travel to countries where SARS has broken out—even though the University has not yet expressly banned using grant money for travel to these areas.

Perkins said students will probably be able to go to affected areas this summer, but “it won’t be with Harvard money.”

Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute Tu Weiming said the Institute has still not made a decision about whether the fellowships it has awarded for study abroad next semester will be usable for travel to Asia.

“All of the students who were offered the fellowships have accepted them and are planning to go,” Weiming said.

Victor D. Ban ’04, who received a grant from the Yenching, said he is being forced to wait to see whether he can travel to Asia with the money.

“I feel like I would like to go but I have to wait to make a final decision,” Ban said.

Kathryn A. Long ’05 said that as of now she will not participate in a language program in China—even though she had planned on it—because she will not receive credit for the program, and does not want to put herself “at great risk for nothing.”

Long said she hopes Harvard will change its policy in light of the possibility of a SARS vaccine being introduced in the near future.

“It’s a stress I don’t need at the end of the year,” said Long, who says she needs to take Chinese this summer in order to fulfill the requirements of her joint concentration in Anthropology and East Asian Studies.

Claudine C. Stuchell ’04, who received a grant from the Asia Center for thesis research, said she still plans to travel in the interior of China as of now, but realizes that her grant money is “in limbo.”

“I’m not letting the small risk that I will contract SARS change my summer and thesis plans,” said Stuchell, who said the last she heard students are still allowed to make their own choices about travel, but are “strongly advised” against it.

Should students be prevented from using the grant money for travel to affected areas, Perkins said they could still use it to fund other related pursuits.

Timothy A. Wickland ’04 said he will go ahead with his plan to travel to China this summer, despite the University’s warning.

“I think people are getting a bit too hysterical about the SARS thing,” Wickland wrote in an e-mail. “I’m more likely to die in a car accident headed to the airport here in Boston than to contract and die of SARS after arriving in Beijing.”

SARS continues to infect people throughout the world. As of yesterday, the number of deaths due to SARS had climbed to 217 (up from 182 as of Saturday) and 495 new cases were reported over the weekend, according to the World Health Organization.