Berkeley urged to lift remaining restrictions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 May, 2003, 12:00am

University of California's partial U-turn does not go far enough, says Arthur Li

The University of California, Berkeley, should lift remaining enrolment restrictions imposed on students from Hong Kong and other Sars-affected areas, education chief Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said yesterday.

The university last week banned the students from taking summer courses, saying it did not have sufficient facilities to quarantine more than a few students if they show symptoms of the disease.

But on Saturday Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl announced the university would take about 80 students from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong who had enrolled in core academic classes beginning on May 27. 'Eighty is more manageable than 600,' he said.

The school, however, will maintain its ban on other students who had enrolled in English as a second language classes. The school is refunding payments received from those students.

'We welcome the latest decision by UC Berkeley,' said the Secretary for Education and Manpower. 'And we sincerely hope that any outstanding restrictions that UC Berkeley is reviewing will be removed as soon as possible.'

Professor Li added: 'We are aware that the university had been concerned about having students from Sars-affected areas developing Sars symptoms while on campus and its ability to cope.

'It is really totally unnecessary and inappropriate to bar students from Hong Kong.'

While UC Berkeley officials have made adjustments to campus health services, including the creation of an isolation facility, the school would not be equipped to quarantine hundreds of students if any showed symptoms of Sars, Mr Berdahl said.

The chancellor noted that further updates to the summer enrolment policy may occur since summer classes would not begin until July.

Since announcing the ban, the school has been accused of an overreaction. A spokeswoman for the WHO said the 'unnecessary' move could cause panic and frustration.

The Chinese for Affirmative Action, a civil rights group in San Francisco, called on Mr Berdahl to reconsider, saying the ban was discriminatory and too broad.

The decision to ban students from taking summer English courses, an important source of income, could cost the university's extension programme US$1 million (HK$7.8 million).

There have been no cases of Sars at UC Berkeley, which has about 700 undergraduate and graduate students now enrolled on campus from the Asian regions hit hardest by the outbreak. The school anticipates fewer than 100 new students from those areas this autumn.