The Center for Social Justice nixed next year’s planned alternative spring break trip to New Orleans last week after a report that some volunteers violated its substance-free policy.

Raymond Shiu, the CSJ program director for student leadership and special programs, said violations during this year’s trip led by Blanket New Orleans, an official CSJ group focused on service to the city of New Orleans, contributed to the decision to levy sanctions. He would not specify what the official violations were, but noted there are CSJ policies in place for these trips, including that they be alcohol-free.

“These are not only service trips but also cultural trips, and ones that are designed to serve as alternatives to the traditional spring break trip in that there is no alcohol,” Shiu said. “This is something that must be met in the future.”

Shiu said the sanction is limited to not allowing the trip to run next year but will not affect the organization’s other work.

“We have decided the best course is to make this student organization sanction in which Blanket New Orleans is not permitted to submit a request for 2009,” he said.

In addition, Shiu said that future trips led by BNO may have to meet additional requirements, but said these have yet to be determined.

Blanket New Orleans was created at Georgetown in 2006 by Haamid “Happy” Johnson (COL ’07) as a nonprofit organization to deliver blankets to residents left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. For the past two years, BNO has organized spring break service trips to New Orleans.

A trip leader, who was granted anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that all participants signed CSJ consent forms before partaking in the trip, which included consent to the alternative spring break trip’s substance-free policy. The student added that a CSJ representative met with this year’s 30 participants before the trip to review the center’s trip policies.

Shiu said that the trip “did not meet the expectations and policies of the Center for Social Justice.”

According to Shiu, disciplinary action against individuals on the trip was considered by the Office of Student Conduct in collaboration with CSJ, but university officials decided that in-house organizational sanctions would be more appropriate. But Shiu did not rule out the possibility of additional sanctions in the future.

“The [CSJ] advisory board will be asking the organization’s leaders [about] placing more sanctions, but they have not yet been determined,” he said.

Several students on the trip confirmed that they will continue to work with CSJ in resolving additional issues.

The Blanket New Orleans trip is one of only a few CSJ-backed trips that do not have a staff or faculty member on the trip, Shiu confirmed.

The trip leader said that participants made mistakes on the trip but that the organization remains committed to its mission.

“Some mistakes were made on the trip by people involved in Blanket New Orleans, and that’s the reason for the sanctions,” the leader said. “But we continue to work to serve the people of New Orleans and one another.”

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