The state Board of Regents announced Thursday it is canceling all university-sponsored international travel for faculty, staff, and students for 30 days effective immediately because of concerns related to the spread of novel coronavirus.
Regent President Mike Richards said in a statement the regents are canceling international travel after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Iowa Department of Public Health recommended that higher-education institutions “should consider postponing or canceling student foreign-exchange programs.”
This 30-day period will include university-sponsored travel over spring break and will affect faculty, staff, and students at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa.
“We recognize this decision may be disappointing to many in our community,” Richards said. “These types of trips provide remarkable opportunities for learning and growth. This decision has not been an easy one; however, we are prioritizing the health and safety of all individuals.”
Regent recommendations and guidance for the situation will be evaluated with university leadership, and updates to guidance will be given as the situation evolves, the statement said.
Faculty, staff, and students already out of the country will be asked to return from any country that the CDC has designated a Level 3, meaning people are advised to avoid nonessential travel to the country.
The Daily Iowan has asked the UI for information about the programs and number of students affected by this restriction on travel and has not yet received a response.
As previously reported by the DI, the UI has already suspended study-abroad programs in China, South Korea, Italy, and Japan because of coronavirus concerns.
Faculty Senate President Sandy-Daack Hirsch in a Tuesday Faculty Council meeting said the university was considering setting a policy on travel for students and faculty, and determining whether those would be treated separately.
“I will say that the university is looking at getting ahead of this and for really being interactive with local units and university policy … how do you set policies that are both advantageous for the university,” she said.
Asked about her Tuesday remarks, UI Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations Rod Lehnertz on Wednesday told the DI that in regards to personal travel, the university encourages faculty to follow CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health guidance on traveling to countries deemed to pose a risk for widespread COVID-19 transmission.
Information about travel is being directly communicated to faculty through the Provost’s Office and through the deans of the colleges, Lehnertz said.
“We ask for people to voluntarily provide that information so we’re aware of it — the university’s aware of it and can help understand situations as they develop — but it’s not our job to tell people whether or not they travel or where they want to travel personally,” Lehnertz said.
Marissa Payne contributed to this report.