MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University has announced that it will cancel all 13 faculty-led spring break study abroad trips because of concerns about the coronavirus.
The decision comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out an alert to institutes of higher learning, encouraging them to reconsider any student international travel. This is according to Amber Brugnoli the assistant vice president of Global Strategies and International Affairs at WVU, who said 217 students will be affected by the decision.
The trips were to last the duration of spring break and take students to countries in Europe and South America. Initially, Brugnoli said, the university had initially been looking into changing the itinerary for the one trip to Italy because the country has the highest number of cases in Europe.
“But in the end, because the situation in Italy escalated so rapidly in 48 hours, it jumped two alert levels, that trip was ultimately canceled along with 12,” Brugnoli said. “Again, that was another reason that we did make the decision to cancel trips because we were no longer confident that in a week’s time the trip wouldn’t suffer adverse effects.”
Brugnoli said the university is working diligently to make sure that students are not impacted financially or academically by the decision to cancel the trips. Students will be offered classes in the summer, online courses through the international institution they were visiting.
Some professors, Brugnoli said, are allowing students to complete assignments to make up for the credits. In addition, she said, their students can enroll in mid-semester courses or simply withdraw from a course without it being held against them.
“I just want to say I really appreciate all the offices of the university and community have been working together on this issue,” Brugnoli said. “The local and state departments of public health and WVU Medicine, as well as all of the affected offices at the university have really rallied around these students to make sure that they are completely supported and will not suffer any ill-effects [from] these decisions. And we’re also communicating extensively with their families to make sure that they’re comfortable knowing that some members of our community are overseas right now.”
Brugnoli said there are currently 43 WVU students abroad in Europe and Australia. All students have been contacted and the university has offered to provide them with travel and academic support if they wish to return. However, as of yet, no students have taken up the offer.
“By the time the CDC alert came out they had been in place for, in some cases since last fall,” Brugnoli said. “Others have just recently arrived at the destinations with the plan to stay there for 4-6 months, it wasn’t as if they had anticipated returning to the US in a few weeks so they have all elected to continue with the programs. If they would decide to return to campus, in effect cancel their program, the university would work with them to make sure that all tuition and fees are covered.”
WVU has launched a website, phone number for coronavirus resources.