Officials at the University of California, Berkeley, relaxed SARS-related restrictions Saturday on the summer enrollment of some students from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The change was expected to allow about 80 of the 500 or so students barred under the original restrictions to attend the university this summer. University officials left open the possibility of further relaxations in the policy by July, when most of the other students were scheduled to enroll.
"This is a quickly changing situation," said the university's chancellor, Robert Berdahl.
The university announced earlier this week it would turn away summer students from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore because of the large number of cases of SARS reported in those regions. Singapore was later removed from the list when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted travel restrictions to that country.
University officials had been under pressure to reconsider the restrictions, which were by far the toughest on summer attendance at any university in the country, even exceeding the general guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control.
Some Asian student groups and faculty members had complained that the ban was too sweeping, and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in San Francisco had been working to have it changed.
At a news conference Saturday, Berdahl acknowledged that the policy had created an impression that the university no longer welcomed students from Asia.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said.
University officials said the restrictions were based largely on the advice of local health officials and medical experts, who said the university was not equipped to deal with the medical needs of students who might develop symptoms of SARS. In particular, they said, the university did not have the facilities to isolate sick students.
The new rules will permit about 80 students enrolled in regular academic programs to attend summer classes. Still barred were the hundreds of students who would have taken courses offered by the university's extension service, mostly English-language classes.
The new policy, Berdahl said, would ensure that students in credit-earning courses would not have their studies disrupted, while reducing the flow of students from the affected regions to a manageable number. He said that since announcing the original policy, the university had found limited quarters where some sick students could be safely isolated.