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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Misguided UA travel alert fails to promote student safety

    We’ve all heard the stories about Mexico – the violence, the corruption, the craziness, the drugs, the gangs and yes, even the donkey show. There’s virtually no limit to these tales. In many ways, Mexico has become a mythical land in our minds – a place where the law comes and goes but the fun never stops.

    Enter Carol Thompson, UA assistant vice president and dean of students, and the fun actually does stop. Last month she doused the flames of intrigue when she released a memo to the UA student body concerning travel to Mexico. One fateful sentence captures the crux of the memo: “”The University of Arizona Dean of Students Office strongly advises students to avoid travel to Mexico at this time and during Spring Break.””

    And just like that, these ominous words shattered the springtime hopes, dreams and plans for many UA students. Her words echo off the walls, and fact remains fact. There is no doubt. Mexico is simply too dangerous for any Spring Break tomfoolery.

    At first glance this travel alert seems fine and dandy – just another administrator looking after her young and blissfully na’ve charges. But the more I ponder the travel alert’s merit, the more I find myself perplexed by its bias and shortsightedness. The stark implication in the travel alert is that the border delineates safe and unsafe. That idea is baseless and debasing all in the same breath.

    However, it would be unfair to hold Carol Thompson solely responsible for this debacle, for much of her memo is based on the travel alert put forth by the U.S. Department of State last year. In that alert, officials cited the spike in drug-related violence as the biggest concern for American tourists.

    To be fair, the UA travel advisory is only a suggestion to students. Jason Casares, assistant dean of students and campus safety coordinator, offers up some other Spring Break destinations: “”You can go to Florida, Texas, there are places here in Arizona, other than going across the border to Rocky Point.””

    He’s absolutely right. Since Arizona isn’t Mexico, students must be safer, right? I mean, after all, we have laws and police officers and first-rate hospitals here. We can go to a place like Phoenix, Arizona, and spend our Spring Breaks safe and sound and outside the reach of the dangerous thugs of Mexico.

    What’s that you say? Phoenix is the kidnapping capital of America, second in the world only to Mexico City? Funny, I don’t remember seeing a UA travel alert for students making the short drive north this break.

    UA officials didn’t rush to release a memo about Phoenix, but the danger is real nonetheless. The drug violence we’ve come to associate with Mexico has spilled over the imaginary border onto our home turf. The Los Angeles Times reports that many of the abductions in Phoenix are related to drug and human trafficking, a phenomenon that vaguely reminds me of the situation in Mexico. Even though we have many of the same problems with crime and violence right here in our own country, nobody seems to care enough to raise the red flag.

    The Associated Students of the University of Arizona certainly hasn’t rallied itself into action like the campus superhero it purports to be. There was no pledge of thousands of safety cards for UA students returning home to Phoenix this Spring Break. No, those safety cards – with useful information like alcohol consumption guidelines for men and women – are headed down south where the real trouble is brewing.

    As budding scholars, we should know that absolutes and extremes are almost never right – just ask any multiple-choice test taker. By confining the dangers of travel to Mexico, the UA has stomped on that logic and spat out biased and unfounded claims. The travel alert addresses the complex issue of border violence in a narrow manner. We must remember that the road at the U.S.-Mexico border is a two-way street.

    Violence and corruption do not simply dissipate at the border. In fact, the problems that plague Mexico are strikingly similar to those that are apparent in our own cities. Perhaps, then, the solution to the problem isn’t a travel alert that smells of a mere waiver of liability.

    It’s unfortunate that UA officials have been duped by the mirage in the desert we’ve come to call the border. A line in the sand doesn’t stop drug trafficking, human smuggling, crime or violence. It seems unfair to warn students traveling two hours south about the perils they face, when those traveling two hours north face the same dangers. Quite simply, the travel alert issued by the UA in February is only half of the tale that must be told.

    Carol Thompson, though, recently said that the university has no intention of releasing any more information and that the UA stands by the original memo, according to the Arizona Daily Star. It appears that only half of the tale will ever be told.

    -ÿJustin Huggins is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at

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