Provost Suzanne Ortega urges individuals considering travel to Mexico to inform themselves of any risks in the areas they plan to visit, how to avoid dangerous situations and who to contact if victimized.
The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website is an excellent source of updated information regarding travel warnings and alerts and country-specific information, she said.
A travel warning is currently in effect for parts of Mexico. The Students Abroad website also has helpful information. For the latest information, visit the U.S. Embassy's Security Updates, plus U.S. and Mexican media sources.
"UNM does not want to erect an academic wall by withdrawing or suspending activities from all areas of Mexico in response to current security conditions. UNM has operated programs in Mexico for decades, and has not had any reports of serious crimes against faculty, staff or students since the ongoing wave of violence," Ortega stated in a letter to the UNM community.
The risks are real, however, she noted, and vary from week to week. All potentially affected faculty, students and staff who accept the risks and decide to go are advised to take reasonable precautions as noted by the U.S. Department of State.
Additionally, UNM recommends all UNM students, faculty and staff going to Mexico to register their trips in advance via email with Robyn Cote at the UNM Latin American and Iberian Institute, and with the U.S. Department of State's travel registration website. Travel registration is free from the U.S. government for U.S. citizens who are traveling or living abroad. Registration allows travelers to record information about their trips that the Department of State can use to assist in an emergency. Americans living abroad can also get routine information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
UNM reserves the right to modify or cancel a trip at any time in case of emergency or if the trip destinations and dates are, or become, the subject of a U.S. Department of State travel alert or warning, or similar guidance received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP).
"UNM fully appreciates the months of hard work devoted by faculty to organize high-quality study abroad trips, as well as the effort put in by students to go on short and long term programs. Therefore, we will not modify or cancel trips unless compelling health or safety reasons require it," Ortega said.
For example, on May 1, 2009, all UNM-related travel to Mexico was temporarily suspended due to the CDCP travel advisory and the World health Organization level-5 advisory prompted by the H1N1 flu outbreak. The decision was deliberated carefully and thoroughly, and ultimately UNM erred on the side of caution to protect the campus community from exposure to this disease given the many uncertainties about it at the time.
"This level of care will inform similar decisions in the future, and hopefully such decisions will be rare," she said.
Media contact: Carolyn Gonzales, 277-5920; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org