Navarro College

Daily Sun photo/Michael Kormos - Navarro College's Corsicana campus.

National news organizations including NBC are reporting that Navarro College in Corsicana informed international student applicants that the institution was not accepting international students from countries with confirmed Ebola cases.

A copy of a letter from the college’s director of International Programs dated Oct. 2 informing an applicant of the policy was published by CBS-11 TV, CNBC, NBC and other websites Tuesday and Wednesday.

That same day — Oct. 2 — in a statement provided to the Daily Sun, college officials made no mention of any policy change, only that it was referring to local health officials and the CDC for information.

The Daily Sun had reached out to the college, asking how the college was addressing current concerns about the Ebola virus in the wake of an active case reported in Dallas for use in a story that published Oct. 4 about local preparations for a disease such as Ebola.

The college’s response included no mention it was turning away such applicants, or had adopted any policy change — only that it was considering the latest information from the CDC in its planning.

The Oct. 2 statement to the Daily Sun from Margaret Moreno, Navarro College Public Information Director, states:

“The safety of Navarro College students, faculty and staff is our top concern. Navarro College refers to our local health department and the CDC concerning literature on awareness to highly communicable diseases, such as Ebola and tuberculosis. Navarro College has a safety committee that meets to discuss such topics. Presently this sort of awareness is being implemented into the college’s procedures.”

A subsequent email to college students and staff sent on Oct. 10 from College District President Dr. Barbara Kavalier — a copy of which was obtained by the Daily Sun — also makes no mention of refusing admittance to international students from countries with Ebola cases, and indicates the college was taking action well in advance of its Oct. 2 statement.

Kavalier’s email of Oct. 10 reads:

“Safety for our students and community is our number one concern. We have received numerous questions regarding the college’s efforts in addressing the risk of the Ebola outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): ‘Although the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is very low, CDC and partners are taking precautions to prevent this from happening.’ The CDC has indicated that the majority of Ebola cases developed symptoms within 10 to 21 days.

“Navarro College has approximately 90 students from West Africa. Almost immediately following the news release regarding the Ebola virus this summer, I met with Ms. Elizabeth Pillans, Director of International Programs, and her department to develop a plan to monitor any potential risks and ensure the safety of our district. We have confirmed that our current students have not traveled internationally since this summer. Please know, the International Department is required to authorize all international Navarro College student travel outside of the country. As such, we are able to take steps to restrict travel for the safety of our students and the district. The International Department has visited with students to share safety information and a message has been placed on the College’s international website with additional information.

“Navarro College is in partnership with Navarro County Office of Emergency Management personnel to ensure cross-agency communication regarding Ebola education and awareness. Mr. Guy Featherston, Dean of Health Professions, is taking the lead in working with community leaders on this issue. As you may be aware, we have a very effective WatchDog alert system that will be used to notify students of any potential issues that may arise. The system delivers messages via e-mail, text, and telephone. Also, Navarro College will cooperate with county officials who oversee the county-wide emergency notification system. More information can be found on their website at www.navarrocountyoem.org .

“Please be assured that we are taking all necessary steps to protect the safety of our students and our employees.”

Eric Meyers, director of the Navarro County Office of Emergency Management, said college officials took part in a meeting last week about local preparations for Ebola, but did not inform him of a policy denying admission.

CNBC News is reporting a response from Dewayne Gragg, Navarro College vice-president of Access and Accountability, saying “Unfortunately, some students received incorrect information regarding their application to the institution.” Gragg said the college was focusing on China and Indonesia for its recruitment, but Gragg would not address any ban on Ebola-impacted countries, replying “the prior email speaks for the college.”

A phone message left Wednesday for Kavalier was not returned by press time.

The Daily Sun was told by email a statement was being prepared but it was not received by press time Wednesday.

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Bob Belcher may be reached by email at bbelcher@corsicanadailysun.com

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