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ITOC restricts all travel to Japan

The potential for nuclear disaster and other repercussions of last week’s devastating earthquake and tsunami have led Duke to restrict travel to all of Japan.

The decision by the International Travel Oversight Committee means that undergraduates cannot travel to Japan under Duke’s auspices, and students currently there are required to return home, ITOC wrote in an e-mail to its listerv Tuesday. Graduate students must sign a waiver to travel to Japan.

ITOC decided Sunday to restrict travel to northern Japan, including portions of Honshu—the main island—and the Tohoku region. Duke widened the restriction Tuesday, after reports that several Japanese nuclear reactors may be close to melting down, said Gilbert Merkx, ITOC chair and vice provost for international affairs and development.

“Essentially the decision reflects the fact that the nuclear situation is getting worse,” Merkx said. “The situation could stabilize very quickly, but it could also get worse very quickly, so we think the prudent thing to do right now is to get our people out.”

Most of the 36 Fuqua School of Business students who were traveling in Japan when the earthquake and tsunami struck will soon leave the country, said Michael Hemmerich, an associate dean for Fuqua’s daytime MBA program. Several students with Japanese citizenship plan to stay in the country to visit their families, he said.

Three Duke undergraduates are also studying in Japan, all at Waseda University in Tokyo, Merkx said. He noted that because the school is on break, only two are currently there.

The Global Education Office is in the process of contacting those students, but no information is yet available on their plans, Margaret Riley, director of the Global Education Office for Undergraduates, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.

Merkx added that as the situation in Japan develops, ITOC will continue to reevaluate the travel restriction.

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