UC and Cal State pull all students out of programs in Japan
California's two public university systems, the University of California and Cal State, are pulling their students out of Japan because of tsunami-related problems and fears about radiation dangers from the country's damaged nuclear reactors. All students from the two systems are accounted for and unharmed, officials said.
UC officials said Thursday the university was suspending its study abroad programs in the quake-affected country and telling 49 UC students still there to leave Japan and 31 others not to return to their programs from spring break travels elsewhere or set out for Japan from California.
UC administrators cited a U.S. State Department advisory that all Americans should defer travel to Japan and those in the country should consider leaving. "This decision was not taken lightly and it is based on the need to ensure your safety, our first and foremost concern," Jean-Xavier Guinard, executive director of UC’s education abroad programs, said in a letter to the students.
UC spokeswoman Lynn Tierney said the university is preparing to fly students out of the area over the next day or two on commercial flights that would be paid for by emergency-related insurance policies. Some of the students are already out of Japan and traveling on spring break to places including Thailand, Europe or home to California and have been told not to return to Japan, she said.
UC's action follows steps taken by Cal State on Tuesday when system Chancellor Charles B. Reed asked that all students in Japan return home. A Cal State spokesman said Thursday that 45 students were in study-abroad programs in Japan and that about 50 others were either preparing to go there for spring quarter or enrolled in programs in Japan but temporarily outside the country.
Cal State has agreements with several Japanese universities to enroll U.S. students in classes. "Leaving our students in this situation is not a risk I am willing to take," Reed said in a memo sent to all campuses.
Many other American universities with study-abroad programs in Japan are taking similar evacuation steps, as those with projects in Egypt did during recent political turmoil there.
UC has study-abroad programs based at half a dozen Japanese universities in a wide array of scientific and cultural topics. In addition, some graduate students and faculty are there on independent research, Tierney said. She added that efforts will be made to get all enrolled students back to UC classes in California quickly, since most campuses are on the quarter calendar and the spring quarter is about to begin. Some students may switch to study-abroad programs in other countries.
-- Larry Gordon