This March, some Tyler Junior College spring break travelers may become some of the thousands of college students who are assaulted, raped, injured, victimized by theft or arrested every year.
“I don’t really have any concerns for myself,” said TJC sophomore Michael Whitehead.
TJC officials feel differently.
“We do worry about them being victimized or hurt,” said Executive Director of Campus Safety Dr. Tom Johnson.
“With our college-age students, many of them think it’s a right of passage,” said Director of Campus Safety Randy Melton. “It’s what they should do, it’s expected out of them; that’s what all of their friends do is [go] to South Texas and just have a party with lots of alcoholic beverages.”
Alcohol companies have spent years and millions of dollars to associate parties with alcohol. Pop-culture such as MTV’s broadcasting live from popular spring break destinations celebrates spring break as being a week of partying for college students.
Annually, alcohol is involved in hundreds of thousands of incidents involving college students. The study found that in 2001, among full-time four-year college students, 97,000 (2 percent) were victims of alcohol-related sexual assault, 599,000 (10.5 percent) were injured because of drinking and 696,000 (12 percent) were hit or assaulted by another drinking college student.
A 2007 study published in the “Journal of Studies on Alcohol & Drugs” shows a correlation between alcohol use and with whom students spend spring break.
“Students who vacationed with friends during Spring Break dramatically increased their alcohol use. In contrast, students who stayed home or vacationed with parents during spring break were at low risk for excessive alcohol use,” the study’s authors concluded.
Staying home or vacationing with parents may not appeal to those who will be engaging in sexual activity, but the 2009 study showed that mixing alcohol with sex resulted in 474,000 students having unprotected sex.
Alcohol-related incidents are only one of numerous risks students face while traveling during spring break.
“One of the big ones that’s overlooked is theft,” said Johnson.”Let’s say that we’ve got a group and we’re going somewhere. People all of a sudden know that you’re not there and will break into your rooms and steal a lot of stuff. They’re easy victims.”
TJC freshmen Brianna Brown and Keaira Wilkins voiced similar concerns. “If I [travel] I’m going to lock everything up … I heard that when there’s a big break, people steal,” said Brown.
Students have risks of becoming victims of theft both at the place they live and where they are traveling. Johnson and Melton said students need to be careful when choosing their spring break destination.
“You need to think about the risks and safety,” said Melton. “Spring Break, obviously, I wouldn’t recommend traveling to say Mexico.”
According to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website, over 100,000 American Spring Breakers travel to Mexico each year. South Padre Island is a hot spot for Texas’ spring breakers and a gateway to two border cities, Matamoros and Nuevo Progresso, which are only 30-45 minutes away.
According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, “travelers to the Mexican border should be especially aware of safety and security concerns due to increased violence in recent years between rival drug trafficking gangs competing for control of narcotics smuggling routes.”
They also caution that “hundreds [of American Spring Breakers] will be arrested”.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs encourages international travelers to enroll in its free “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program” (STEP). The program helps the Department of State better assist travelers when they have an emergency. Travelers can also receive updates notifying them of changes in conditions that affect the security of American travelers to the region.
Johnson encourages students to keep their parents informed.
“I know [students] don’t want to tell their parents everything but…at least let them know where they’re going, what hotel they’re at and things of that nature and how they can be reached if they can’t reach them on [their] cell phone, ” Johnson said.
Travelers can enroll in STEP online at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.