Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, March 17, 2011

U-M affiliates in Japan moving to safer parts of the country

U-M and the crisis in Japan: Response, reaction >>

With continued uncertainty regarding the safety of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, university officials are now “strongly urging” students still in the Tokyo-Yokohama area to move farther south in Japan or return to the United States.

“It’s important to note, however, that our nuclear experts believe there is no immediate radiological danger in Tokyo,” says John Godfrey, assistant dean for international studies in the Rackham School of Graduate Studies. “Rather, this is a prudent step based on reports that public transportation is crowded now and may become overburdened if concerns increase.”

Godfrey sent the update to the seven U-M students in an e-mail message Wednesday night. The university has offered to assist the students. Some were reported to already be moving about 200 miles southwest to the Kyoto-Osaka area.

Godfrey says members of the university’s International Travel Oversight Committee consulted with faculty experts in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences before sending the message to the students in Japan.

Fukushima is about 150 miles north of Tokyo.

In the hours following the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan March 11, the university quickly identified 19 students and two faculty members in Japan. The university made contact with all of those individuals and was able to determine that all were safe. Some have now left Japan or moved to safer locations in the country.

Additionally, a research team of five led by a U-M professor has relocated from a Japanese research facility in the northern Tokyo suburb of Saitama. The facility was damaged by the earthquake and the team has relocated to Osaka.

The two Ross School of Business faculty members in Japan were scheduled to teach at U-M’s Global MBA in the Tokyo area, but that program has been canceled. One is now in Singapore and the other is en route back to Ann Arbor.

None of the U-M affiliates was near the area of northeastern Japan where the impact of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami was the most severe.

The university also has about 100 students from Japan on the Ann Arbor campus.

In an e-mail message to those students, John E. Greisberger, director of the university’s International Center, offered his sympathy and his assistance.

“We are contacting students from Japan to express our sympathy and concern for you, your family and friends due to the tsunami that hit your country yesterday afternoon.

“If you have been affected by the tsunami in any way and need assistance from the university, please contact the International Center.”

Godfrey also emphasized how important the International Travel Registry has become in emergency situations like this.

The university requires all students participating in university-sponsored international programs to register, providing their location of study and emergency contact information. All students, faculty and staff are encouraged to use the registry.

“The registry information was essential when we needed to evacuate students and staff from Egypt less than two months ago,” Godfrey says.