The Office of International Programs (OIP) has closed the BC in Parma study abroad programs due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Italy, Nick Gozik, director of OIP, said in an email to The Heights. The 26 returning students will continue their abroad coursework remotely through online lectures and assignments.
OIP will be reimbursing students for changes in airline ticket reservations as they return to the United States, and the office’s goal is to have all BC students out of the city by Sunday, according to an email sent to the Parma students.
There have now been over 650 documented cases of coronavirus in Italy, which experienced a 50 percent spike in cases in 24 hours, according to NPR.
“We … are very carefully monitoring the situation and have been in close contact with onsite staff, resident directors, and students,” Gozik said in an email sent on Wednesday, before the Parma program was canceled. “… We would never want to force a student to stay in a location where they do not feel comfortable in terms of their health or safety.”
There are 16 semester study abroad programs in Italy listed on the OIP website. Outside of the Parma programs, there are 27 BC students enrolled in programs in Italy, Gozik said.
Anthony Figura, CSOM ’21, who is studying in Parma, Italy, said on Wednesday that all schools in the Emilia-Romagna region—which includes Parma—had closed due to the virus prior to the BC program being officially closed.
Other universities have been taking precautions against the virus in Italy. New York University announced on Monday it was closing its Florence campus for at least a month, and Syracuse University closed its Florence program on Wednesday. Villanova University announced on Wednesday that it was bringing home all students who are abroad in Italy.
Vice President for Student Affairs Joy Moore sent an email to Boston College students on Wednesday concerning the coronavirus, specifically regarding Spring Break. Moore linked to U.S. State Department travel advisories regarding the virus, including those for South Korea, Italy, Japan, Iran, and Hong Kong, and she urged students to stay informed on the outbreak.
“It is important to note there have been no reported cases of the Coronavirus on the BC campus, and only one in the city of Boston,” Moore said in the email. “Nonetheless, we will continue to monitor the situation and stay in close contact with educational partners abroad, government officials, and colleagues at other institutions.”
Moore also encouraged students to follow health safety practices, including hand-washing, avoiding sharing food and drink dishes and utensils, and avoiding traveling while sick.
In late January, OIP canceled one spring study abroad program in Shanghai and offered two students in a Beijing program the option to return to the United States to resume coursework at BC, both of whom chose to return.
There have been more than 83,00 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to The New York Times. Over 78,800 of the cases are in China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
So far, there has only been one confirmed case in Massachusetts, but the Center for Disease Control has now warned that the virus may soon begin spreading within the United States.
A little over three weeks ago, the Undergraduate Government of BC Senate passed a resolution advocating for a University response to a possible risk of an on-campus coronavirus outbreak. The resolution called on the BC administration to adopt a list of health and safety precautions and provide mental health resources for students affected by the outbreak.
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