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Brown updates event, travel COVID-19 policies

Policies limit events with 100+ people, Brown-sponsored international travel

In light of “the rapidly evolving impact” of COVID-19 coronavirus, President Christina Paxson P'19 announced substantial new University event and travel policies, in an email circulated to community members March 6. 

These policies will remain in place for events scheduled through April 13, Brian Clark, University spokesperson, wrote in an email to The Herald. This date was established “with the specific goal of enabling any longer-term measures to be based on updated information and guidance from health officials,” Clark added. 

Effective Monday, University events with 100 attendees or more, excluding academic courses, must be postponed, cancelled or offered virtually, Paxson wrote in the email. This includes cancellation of “A Day on College Hill” admission events in April and the Class Coordinating Board Gala, originally scheduled for March 14. The CCB “will be issuing cash refunds to the students who purchased tickets” on March 16 and 17. 

University policies for athletic events will be announced Monday, wrote Paxson. Policies will apply for venues both on- and off-campus.

Effective today, all University-sponsored international travel has been suspended. Additionally, “Anyone returning to the U.S. after travel to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea will be required to self-isolate in a U.S. location away from campus for at least 14 days before returning to Brown,” wrote Paxson.

Paxson also cautioned students to think about the risk of traveling within the United States, writing, "Anyone with domestic travel plans should carefully consider whether they should be adjusted or cancelled." 

Among the cancelled University-sponsored travel is a trip to Germany, which was the travel component of HIAA 1850H: “Berlin: Architecture, Politics and Memory” taught by Dietrich Neumann, professor in both the History of Art and Architecture and the Italian Studies departments. Bliss Beyer ’22, a student in Neumann’s class, said that his students had been bracing themselves for a potential cancellation over recent days. 

Though she admitted that the trip to Berlin over spring break had been “the main draw” to initially enrolling, Beyer remains glad she is taking Neumann's class despite the trip cancellation.

Beyer voiced confusion as to why special events such as Gala have been cancelled, whereas large lecture classes that could be streamed online were not. 

This sentiment was echoed by Lucy Duda ’20, who thinks it is “strange” to exclude classes from the list of large University events that are being cancelled.

“A virus doesn’t care why people are gathered in big groups,” Duda wrote in an email to The Herald. “Most large classes are primarily lecture-based, which in theory should make it easier to cancel in-person sessions and distribute makeup materials.”

Neumann's class was not the only one affected. Students enrolled in INTL 1802W: “International Journalism: Foreign Reporting in Practice,” taught by Senior Fellow at the Watson Institute Stephen Kinzer, had planned to travel to Costa Rica during spring break. The cancellation “is a heavy blow and I share the disappointment of my wonderful students,” Kinzer wrote in an email to The Herald. 

“Nonetheless it's hard to argue with President Paxson's reasoning,” Kinzer added. “In journalism as in life, you never know what's waiting around the next corner or behind the next tree.”

The news follows other University action in light of growing concerns about the spread of coronavirus. The University cancelled its Brown in Bologna program Feb. 28, asking all enrolled students to make arrangements to depart from Italy, The Herald previously reported.

The University’s announcement mirrors similar action taken by peer institutions including Harvard and Penn, which both announced cancellation of their admitted students weekend, Visitas and Quaker Days, respectively.


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