Students from countries plagued with SARS outbreaks will be allowed to enroll in
area universities and colleges this summer. But some students who are already
here are canceling plans to go home.
The schools' positions could change if the epidemic worsens or if the number of
countries with travel advisories increases. The U.S. State Department currently
advises against unnecessary travel to China, Taiwan and Hong Kong; SARS
outbreaks have also occurred in Vietnam.
"No Texas university has put any kind of restriction. If the numbers begin to
indicate we should, we'll make that decision," said Richard Nicholas, vice
president for student life at Texas Woman's University.
Last week, the University of California at Berkeley barred new students from
countries hit hard by SARS, saying the university is ill-equipped to handle an
But after facing intense criticism that it overreacted, Berkeley announced over
the weekend that it will allow about 80 students from China, Hong Kong and
Taiwan to attend summer classes -- far fewer than the nearly 600 Asian students
who had already enrolled in summer and English language classes.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome, a highly contagious illness whose symptoms
mimic the flu, has killed more than 450 people worldwide. There is no known
Officials at area universities and colleges said the number of students on their
campuses who are from the affected countries is small. At the University of
Texas at Arlington, 216 students come from China, and 124 are from Taiwan. Texas
Christian University has 30 Chinese students and five from Taiwan. At the
University of North Texas, 172 students are from China and 148 are from Taiwan.
Texas Woman's University, the smallest of the four universities, has 32 students
from affected areas out of an enrollment of about 6,300 students.
University authorities have provided international students with information
about the disease and are monitoring travel plans. Officials said that if a
student shows signs of the illness, they will follow guidelines established by
the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The guidelines include
isolating patients for a 10-day incubation period.
Guili Sun, 27, a UNT computer science graduate student, believes people are
overreacting. Sun, who is from the Shanxi Province near Beijing, has a friend
who planned to return to China over the weekend.
"I didn't have any plans to go home. Even if I did, I think I would have stuck
to the plan. Everything is under control in the society. It's going back to
normal, so I wouldn't think it's a factor," she said.
But some of Sun's fellow students are taking no chances. Several foreign
students are staying in Denton this summer because of concerns about SARS and
because new visa procedures could make it difficult to re-enter the country,
said Su Gao, who advises the UNT Chinese Students and Scholars Association.
Gao, a UNT assistant math professor, canceled a summer trip to China when a
conference was called off. And a UNT study-abroad program has been diverted from
China to Malaysia, an east Asian country that has not had a SARS outbreak.
Texas Woman's University students Bo-I Chen and Ming-Yu Lin canceled their
summer trips home to Taiwan.
"The SARS situation is very severe," Chen said. "My wife and I made the decision
at the final minute. We lost money, but to compare with taking the risk, we
thought we'd better stay."
Jingyi Wang, 34, a graduate student at TCU, was looking forward to visiting his
parents in China this summer after not seeing his homeland for four years. But
because of SARS and increasing difficulties in getting student visas, Wang said
he canceled his trip, forfeiting his $700 round-trip ticket.
"There's no guarantee I will get infected, but probably I will make somebody
else scared if I come back," said Wang, a doctoral candidate in physics. "I'm
upset about that, but it's necessary. ... It's better for everybody."