Dear Rackham Students,
I am writing with regard to two recent developments that affect our campus community, and that may be particularly important to international students. One is the newly identified coronavirus that is causing an outbreak of pneumonia illness in China and multiple other countries, including cases in the United States. The other is the expansion of federal, country-based travel and immigration restrictions announced last week. My goal with this message is to ensure that you have access to information on these developments, to acknowledge their potential impact on both work and mental health, and to make sure you are aware of resources for support.
In light of the outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19, the university has placed China under a travel restriction. Under the restriction, U-M graduate students may only travel to China for compelling and extenuating circumstances, and they are required to have an approved safety plan from the International Travel Oversight Committee. This plan is meant to ensure that students are aware of the health risks, have developed strategies to stay safe, and are prepared to shelter in place should China impose additional travel restrictions. Safety plans are very likely to be denied, and all university-related and personal travel to China for students, faculty, and staff is discouraged.
For the most recent information on responses to this outbreak—both publicly and from U-M—I urge you to check back frequently with the university Key Issues page on the subject. In addition to the latest updates from U-M leadership, it includes links to information from the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, University Health Services, and several others.
The U.S. administration also announced last week a suspension of the overseas issuance of immigrant visas for certain nationals of Myanmar (Burma), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, and Nigeria, along with disallowing Diversity Visa Lottery participation for Sudan and Tanzania. The U-M International Center points out that the new restrictions will not apply to tourist, business, or other nonimmigrant travel and thus should not impact international students and scholars in their work. The International Center “will continue to monitor the situation and directly contact any international students, scholars, or employees who may be impacted as new information comes to light.”
I know that these events have the potential to be distressing and disruptive as you go about your research, teaching, and scholarship. Many members of the Rackham community have colleagues, friends, or loved ones who are dealing directly with impacts from the coronavirus outbreak or the ramifications of the travel policy and its change. I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers a range of ways for you to find support should you need it. CAPS has an embedded staff member, Dr. Laura Monschau, dedicated to working specifically with graduate students. On the Rackham website, you can find additional resources, including contact information for Rackham’s Resolution Office.
We will also continue to provide updates on our website as they become available. In the meantime, I ask all members of the Rackham community to consider how you might support one another. A colleague, classmate, or lab mate might appreciate the connection that you choose to make.