BREAKING: Vanderbilt in Florence study abroad program suspended

The director of CET Academic Programs in Italy encouraged students to leave Italy Feb. 28 due to coronavirus.

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Emily Gonçalves

Coronavirus research has been taking place at Vanderbilt Medical Center. (Hustler Multimedia/ Emily Gonçalves)

Last updated Feb. 29 9:18 a.m.

CET Academic Programs (CET), the organization that jointly administers Vanderbilt University in Florence, posted earlier today on their website that spring study abroad programs in Florence and Siena are suspended in response to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). All students are encouraged to leave Italy as soon as possible. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised the warning level to 3 in Italy, as of Feb. 28. Italy currently has 889 cases of coronavirus with 21 deaths. Other universities have canceled study abroad programs in Florence such as New York University, Syracuse University, Fairfield University and Elon University, as reported by ABC News Feb. 26.

“CET is suspending spring programs in Florence and Siena due to the Level 3 warnings issued today by the U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control. Students are encouraged to leave Italy as soon as possible and may remain in CET housing until they are able to depart,” the update on the website read. 

Junior Hailey Koretz is studying abroad in Florence this semester and was informed by CET around 2 a.m. Feb. 29 local time, 7 p.m. Feb. 28 central time, that her program was suspended.

Classes for the week of March 2-6 have been canceled and midterms are also postponed, according to the email students received from CET. The email also said that courses will be switched to online instruction, and students will receive details about their online classes for the remainder of the semester and the plan for midterms via email at the end of next week. Online instruction begins March 9, according to the email.

Earlier in the week, CET gave students the option to leave the program early or to continue to wait to see how the situation unfolded. While Koretz had chosen to wait, she appreciated being given the choice on how to proceed at the time.

“I don’t know how they could have done it differently to make it better, so overall I’m happy with how the program is handling it,” Koretz said.

Vanderbilt sent the following statement to the Hustler Feb. 29.

“On Friday evening the Centers for Disease Control issued a new travel advisory for Italy, raising the advisory to Level 3: Avoid Nonessential Travel. Consistent with the university’s Study Away Risk Assessment Committee’s (SARAC) policies and student international travel policy, and in cooperation with its program partner, CET, Vanderbilt is working to provide assistance to students who are affected directly by CET’s decision to suspend the program. The program’s academics will continue remotely through online coursework.”

The Hustler will update this post as more information becomes available. The article has been updated with Vanderbilt’s statement.