College To Keep Trips to Mexico

Harvard will not restrict international travel—including trips to Mexico—in response to the Swine Flu epidemic, University leaders decided last week.

“This is a contingent decision, that is, it can change depending on information about events yet to occur,” wrote Vice Provost for International Affairs Jorge I. Dominguez in an e-mailed statement. “But, given the near end of the academic year, it seemed sensible to reach this decision explicitly.”

In the past week, several other colleges and universities, including Yale, have announced in cancellations for Mexico-bound trips due to concerns about swine flu.

Office of International Programs Director Catherine H. Winnie said that any updates on University-related travel restrictions will be announced on Harvard’s home page, and students funded by individual centers, such as the OIP and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, will be contacted directly by those organizations regarding any changes.

Winnie said that there is one Harvard-sponsored internship program in Mexico run by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. In addition, there are half a dozen undergraduates researching or traveling in the country on Harvard grants.

Students may still opt out of attending university-sponsored travels to Mexico if they are personally concerned about the outbreak.

“We understand that one’s health is a very personal thing. If a student decides not to go to Mexico, we will sit down with him or her and figure things out on a case by case basis,” said Christopher “Kit” H. Barron, a spokesman for the David Rockefeller Center.

Barron said he could not say for certain whether the student would be allowed to keep his or her summer grant.

According to Winnie, the OIP would help students secure an alternative placement and allow their grants to fund the new program or project in the event that a cancellation did occur.

Harvard’s inaugural Summer Internship Program on Sustainable Development in Mexico has placed eight undergraduates in various rural communities in the southern part of the country.

Barron said that as of last Thursday, all eight students still plan to attend the program.

“We want to stress that not only has the University been monitoring the situation, but on an individual level we at the David Rockefeller Center have had the chance to talk with everyone about safety procedures,” Barron said. “We’ve met with every single student traveling to Mexico about H1N1, and we’re reaching out to students and parents to make sure that they have all the information that we have.”

“Now more than ever, everyone traveling internationally should be registered with International SOS so Harvard can provide assistance, should it be needed,” Dominguez wrote, referring to a 24-hour emergency medical service provided by the University to all undergraduates traveling abroad for Harvard-related activities, such as study-abroad programs.

—Staff Writer Manning Ding can be reached at ding3@fas.harvard.edu.