PHOENIX — The U.S. State Department and universities around the country are warning college students headed for Mexico for some spring-break partying of a surge in drug-related murder and mayhem south of the border.
"We're not necessarily telling students not to go, but we're going to certainly alert them," said Tom Dougan, vice president for student affairs at the University of Rhode Island. "There have been Americans kidnapped, and if you go you need to be very aware and very alert to this fact."
More than 100,000 high school- and college-age Americans travel to Mexican resort areas during spring break each year. Much of the drug violence is happening in border towns, and tourists have generally not been targeted, though there have been killings in the big spring break resorts of Acapulco and Cancun, well away from the border.
The University of Arizona in Tucson is urging its approximately 37,000 students not to go to Mexico. Other universities — in the Southwest and far beyond, including Penn State, Notre Dame, the University of Colorado and the University at Buffalo — said they would call students' attention to the travel warning issued Feb. 20 by the State Department.
The State Department stopped short of warning spring break tourists not to go to Mexico, but advised them to avoid areas of prostitution and drug-dealing and take commonsense precautions.
Some students dismissed the warnings. "If anything is going to deter people," said Danielle Jones, a North Carolina State student who is staying close to home because of a family emergency, "it's the recession."