Repercussions associated with recent outbreaks of the SARS virus in several countries around the world are beginning to affect members of the Lawrence community. Individual students planning off-campus study programs and trips, as well as faculty and student research groups, have been forced to deal with travel advisories and cancellations due to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a mysterious virus that began in China, and according to the World Health Organization, has killed 229 people worldwide. To date, one group of Lawrentians has already had to alter their travel plans due to a university policy that places restrictions on sending students and faculty to areas under travel advisories. A research group comprised of Lawrence faculty and students canceled their summer trip to China due to the international travel advisories and issues concerning SARS.
Students electing to study abroad next year also have to deal with the virus’ effect on international travel. In an interview with the Appleton Post-Crescent, Director of International and Off-Campus Programs Andrew Law commented on SARS and the Lawrence community, saying, “Its impact has mostly been in planning purposes.”
He added that the university is using travel advisories “as a framework for any of our students looking at programs in summer or fall-whether it is worth the risk for students.”
Another student affected by SARS is Lawrence senior Ansel Wallenfang. Recipient of a $22,000 Watson Fellowship for the study of ancient musical instruments in India and China, Wallenfang may have to reconsider his travel plans because of the virus.
In an interview with the Appleton Post-Crescent, Wallenfang, who is scheduled to go abroad in August, said, “If they don’t lift a travel advisory, I will basically be spending my whole time in India.”
On SARS, he added, “I’m pretty much convinced it’s more fear propaganda than anything else. That’s what I’m banking on-that it will be under control.”
Despite the travel warnings, the university is continuing to plan a trip to China in March of 2004.
However, if the epidemic continues in China, the long-range planning of trips to East Asia might have to change somewhat drastically.
As Frank Doeringer, the Nathan M. Pusey Professor of East Asian Studies, said, “In the future we might have to travel to Japan and South Korea rather than Japan and China.”
Doeringer also said that the outbreak might affect students who are studying the Chinese language, making it difficult to travel to Chinese-speaking countries.