The University recommended that students, faculty, and staff do not travel internationally over spring break in an all-campus email concerning the coronavirus disease (also known as COVID-19) on Wednesday, Feb. 26. The email cited travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 outbreak implemented by the federal government as the main reason behind the warning against leaving the country.
“The U.S. Department of State has made the decision not to allow re-entry into the U.S. for travelers returning from mainland China who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents,” the email read. “As the threat of COV-19 expands, these restrictions could very well extend to other countries. Therefore, the University is recommending that students, faculty, and staff do not travel internationally.”
With the United States now suspending entry for foreign nationals from China and Iran, the University’s international students could face problems with re-entering the country in the future if travel restrictions are extended to other countries. Additionally, students studying abroad in Bologna, Italy, have been brought home by the Office of Study Abroad due to concerns regarding the recent spread of the virus in Northern Italy.
In an email sent to students holding F-1 visas on Thursday, Feb. 27, the Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) echoed the previous all-campus email.
“This is a rapidly changing situation, and it’s quite possible that travel restrictions could be expanded in the near future to other countries affected by COVID-19,” the email read. “Thus, OISA strongly recommends that you do not travel outside the U.S.—not only for your own health and safety, but because there is a risk you could become stranded.”
The OISA also warned that the University cannot provide financial, legal, or immigration assistance to students who are unable to return to the United States or face issues with federal travel restrictions.
“Please know that if you decide to travel internationally, Wesleyan University is not responsible for the financial loss incurred if you are unable to return to the United States as planned,” the email read. “The University will not be able to provide legal or immigration assistance if/when the travel restrictions expand.”
Director of International Student Services Chia-Ying Pan explained that if a student were to be stuck outside of the United States and unable to return, they would need to rely on non-University resources for help.
“If a student chooses to travel outside of the U.S. and is unable to return, they will need to rely on their family and/or the embassy/consulate of their passport countries for assistance,” Pan wrote in an email to The Argus. “It is not that the University/OISA is not willing to provide assistance, but we are not able to provide assistance in a case of travel ban due to the outbreak of COIVD-19. Immigration offices in U.S. higher education institutions are only equipped to handle routine immigration issues. We have no power to overwrite proclamations published by the U.S. government.”
Pan also mentioned the suspension of regular visa services at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and U.S. Consulates General in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang as of Feb. 10 as obstacles for non-immigrant visa-holding students who leave the United States.
“If a [People’s Republic of] China passport holder with an expired F-1 visa leaves the U.S., getting another F-1 visa to re-enter the United States is very difficult and likely time-consuming,” Pan wrote. “Students in such situations will likely not be able to return to the U.S. in time to complete the semester.”
The OISA asked students who still plan to travel internationally for urgent reasons to inform the office of their travel itineraries. International students who have changed travel plans and decided to remain on campus over spring break but have not yet signed up for spring break dining services should email email@example.com, according to an email from the OISA to all international students on Monday, March 2.
International students who are not on financial aid should use their spring semester meals and points and add more points as needed. While students who applied for financial aid for break dining before the deadline should have received emails or will soon receive emails confirming their aid status, there are currently no subsidies planned for international students on financial aid who are signing up for break dining after the deadline.
“If any changes with regard to aid were to be made that would involve multiple departments so no decisions on that would be made until later in the week since it would require additional funds,” Director of Usdan University Center Michelle Myers-Brown wrote in an email to The Argus. “Several offices including dining, financial aid, OISA, and the Dean of Students office would be determining those decisions.”
While the break dining location is currently set as Summerfields, the location may be changed due to a higher number of students changing travel plans, according to Myers-Brown. Myers-Brown is working with Bon Appétit to determine whether adjustments need to be made to spring break dining hours based on the anticipated increase of students participating in break dining.
“The dining location is currently set for Summerfields, HOWEVER, that location may be changed due to a high number of students having to change their travel plans and who therefore may need to use their meal plan,” Myers-Brown wrote in an email to students who applied for financial aid for spring break meals. “A determination will be made by Wednesday [March 4] at noon and final details will be communicated at that time.”
Jiyu Shin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jiyu_shin.