Flight restrictions leave funded trips up in the air


Photo courtesy of Center for Disease Control website TRACKING THE SPREAD­—A global map represents locations of confirmed COVID-19 cases. On Wednesday, March 11 President Donald Trump announced a suspension of all travel from Europe to the U.S. for the next 30 days in an effort to minimize spreading.

Mary McDonough

NMU President Fritz Erikson restricted university funded air travel in an announcement March 9 as a safety precaution against the spreading Coronavirus. In the midst of a busy travel season, conferences and international trips were either cancelled or students and faculty are left questioning what will happen next. At least two trips in the English department have been cancelled so far. 

Currently 20 students are involved with Marquette Choral Society (MCS) under the direction of Assistant Professor Erin Colwitz. For the last two years, MCS has been planning a performance tour of Italy. While Erikson’s travel restrictions don’t necessarily impact the plans directly,  Colwitz said that the virus’ impact on Italy has already changed the itinerary. 

“The idea is to hit as many cities as we can. We were going to start in Venice but that is off the table completely at this point. We may go to Naples, it just depends if Italy opens back up again,” Colwitz said. “The plan is to sing mass at The Vatican.”

While the itinerary shifts, Colwitz said that the trip still faces the possibility of being postponed until May 2021. But that also raises many questions about which members will actually be able to attend. Yet, even if the trip goes as planned, some members over 65 may decide against it for their safety. 

“I’m disappointed. It’s no one’s fault, it’s not like you can be mad at a virus. If we have to postpone it a year it’s not the worst thing,” Colwitz said. “My concern would be for the students who are graduating, if they could come back and actually do a tour. But either way there will be people who don’t go on this trip.” 

Sophomore music education major Caitlin Palomaki said that even though she can attend in 2021, it is still hectic to figure out what will happen over the summer and although the timing would not be ideal, it’s all out of safety precautions. 

“It’s a lot of chaos, trying to figure out how to get all of this done. I really hope it doesn’t get postponed just because I’ve scheduled my whole summer around this,” Palomaki said. “It’s out of anyone’s control, things get in the way.”

Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society, cancelled  a week-long conference in Las Vegas due to  cases of coronavirus  reported on the West Coast.  

Eight Society members were selected in early January to represent NMU at the international conference and present a variety of different original works to members from all over the world. While members can still attend these conferences as alumni, the cost is more within a student budget, due to university funding, senior writing major Olivia Helka said.  

The university has made the right call, however, missing out on trips like Vegas is hard to swallow, Helka said.

“I completely understand why we’re doing it because it’s not just the safety of us it’s the safety of others. But the fact is, this was a really amazing opportunity for myself and seven other people that a lot of us had worked really hard for,” Helka said.  “This was something that could potentially open more doors for us in the future, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”