UW – Madison: Asian Disaster Sparks University Concern



MADISON – The massive devastation and rising health concerns from Sunday’s earthquake and tsunamis in Asia are “heart-wrenching for the world and for our campus community,” says University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor John D. Wiley.

“In a world made smaller by technology and human connection, a tragedy half a world away is drawn even closer to our campus because of our global reach,” Wiley says. “As this tragedy unfolds, we have abiding concern for students, alumni, faculty and staff with ties to South and Southeast Asia. We extend to those affected by loss our deepest condolences.”

There is this good news from the region today: All 25 UW-Madison students in study-abroad programs in the region have been located and all are well.

“All Thailand program students and all India program students have been located and are safe,” says Joan Raducha, associate dean of international studies.

Staff members in Madison and on site at programs in Chiang Mai, Thailand and at Varanisi and Madurai in India worked for much of the week to confirm the whereabouts of UW-Madison students there, who are also on semester break and many of whom are traveling.

All three locations where the students are based are inland and not directly affected by the earthquake or tsumanis.

The last student, who traveled away from the affected area and was out of touch, contacted officials Thursday morning.

There is also concern for the 700 or so international students from the affected area, many of whom are traveling over the holiday break.

Pap Sarr, director of International Student Services, says that his office has attempted to contact international students by e-mail to offer help to resolve travel or visa problems and to offer counseling services through University Health Services.

“We are most concerned for those students, but it’s likely we won’t know how many have been affected until the spring semester begins,” Sarr says.

The university is forming a task force to make sure that any foreign students who arrive back to campus after classes resume on Jan. 18 are not penalized, either financially or academically.

“We don’t know if these students will make it back, or if they will stay behind and help,” Sarr says. “Our office is available to help in whatever way we can.”

Paula Bonner, president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Alumni Association, says the disaster is even more painful because of the university’s strong connection with that part of the world.

“As the pictures and accounts of devastation in that part of the world pour in, our concern rests not only with our alumni base, but with all people struggling to come to terms with this wide-scale destruction and loss of lives,” Bonner says.The association knows of 514 living alumni in Thailand, 781 in India, 573 in Indonesia and 504 in Malaysia.

The alumni association this week sent an e-mail message to alumni with known addresses, stating: “The thoughts and best wishes of your fellow UW-Madison alumni are with you and the people of your country during this difficult period. We are proud of the global community of alumni and share in the losses and triumphs of our international family.”