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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA readies for spring break

While the U.S. works to end a lingering recession, the UA is debating how best to ensure the safety of students traveling for spring break.

The number of spring breakers going to Mexico this year is unclear. In addition to the tough economy, last February’s travel advisories issued by the Dean of Students Office may cause some students to refrain from going. The advisory urged students to be wary when traveling to Mexico in the wake of increased violence along the border in recent years. So far, no advisory has been issued for this year.

“”Last year, we wanted to make sure students understood the situation they might be entering if they chose to travel to Mexico,”” said Dean of Students Carol Thompson. “”But any decision we make for this year will wait until closer to March.””

The UA will be offering two programs to educate students on how to stay safe if they choose to travel during the break.

On Feb. 28, the UA fraternity and sorority community will hold the third annual Hunter White Spring Break Preparedness Program, an event which honors the memory of former UA student Hunter White, who died in an alcohol-related rollover car accident while on spring break in Mexico in 2001.

“”It’s sort of a pseudo-refresher course for students heading out to spring break,”” said Will White, Hunter’s brother. “”You can see how Hunter’s story hits home with students.””

The event will start with a morning session for students involved in Greek Life and conclude with a keynote speech in the Grand Ballroom in the Student Union Memorial Center, which is open to the entire student body.

“”The goal here is to have more students know Hunter’s story,”” said Johanne Jensen, the senior director for fraternity and sorority programs. “”We want them to think how their actions could impact themselves, those around them and their families if something were to happen to them.””   

White says he hopes his brother’s death serves as a reminder for students to always keep safety in mind.

“”Hunter was a special, all-American guy just doing what students usually do on break,”” White said. “”If he had made some different decisions, the outcome might have been different. We want students to focus on the decisions they make.””

Students will also have the opportunity to attend the sixth annual UA Safety Fair. The fair, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m on March 4, is free and open to the public. It will be on the UA Mall between the stage and the cactus garden.

“”Quite a few students do travel outside of Arizona over spring break, especially to Mexico,”” said Aaron Elyachar, a political science sophomore and ASUA Safety Fair director. “”Even though most students look at Mexico as a more lax country, you can get in real trouble if you break the law there.””

The fair, presented by ASUA, in conjunction with University of Arizona Police Department, Residence Hall Association, Campus Health, University Medical Center and the Transportation Security Administration, will include booths set up by student organizations. There will be giveaways and live music by local band Van Gogh Rescue.

“”If you want to stay safe, smart, and alive this spring break, then you should ‘Van Gogh’ to it,”” Elyachar said.

According to government statistics, the number of passports issued in 2009 fell by more than 7 million from the record-high levels of 2007, which was the first year a passport was required to travel by air to Mexico or Canada.

“”The thing about the recession is that it doesn’t necessarily deter people from going on vacations or traveling for spring break,”” said Chad Hart, president of Inertia Tours, a travel service company that specializes in spring break packages for college students. “”The only thing the economy can do is shift where people go.””

With the decline in international travel, companies such as Inertia Tours have thrived by offering vacation packages in the U.S. at discounted rates.

Hart said college students, who are the traditional vacation community pariah come spring break, have now become a targeted demographic for cities hit hard by the economic downturn.

“”Communities have always had a love/hate affair with spring break,”” Hart said. “”Only now the love for the students’ money is outpacing any hate for the students themselves.””

International travel may have slowed, but by no means has it stopped, thanks in part to the introduction of passport cards.

These cards, which are both easier to obtain and cheaper than the traditional passport book, have become increasingly popular since their introduction in 2007. The number issued has nearly tripled, rising from about 500,000 in their inaugural year to about 1.5 million in 2009. Passport cards act as passport substitutes, and are used specifically for land travel between Canada, Mexico and the United States.


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