On behalf of the Center for Social Justice Advisory Board for Student Organizations, I would like to respond to the recent editorial regarding Blanket New Orleans (“Minor Crime, Major Time,” THE HOYA, April 11, 2008, A2). While we cannot comment on the nature of the violations in question, we would like to discuss the principles that led to the decision to prohibit the organization from hosting an alternative spring break trip in 2009.

CSJ requires all participants on alternative spring break trips, regardless of age, to sign a pledge stating that they will not consume alcohol on the trip. This is a policy at the CSJ for all alternative break trips.

CSJ feels strongly that these trips should be “alternative” spring break opportunities; that is, they should provide students with a spring break travel option not focused on the consumption of alcohol. Options for the “traditional” spring break are not in short supply.

oreover, CSJ asks students to sign the pledge out of its concern for the basic safety and well-being of all students on the trip and of people they may encounter in our partner communities.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, CSJ considers all students who participate in alternative spring break programs to be ambassadors of Georgetown University to the communities they serve. As such, students are expected to comport themselves in a manner befitting a Hoya, whose presence should be serving a need and seeking to act as a witness to these important social justice issues.

These trips are designed to be a justice and cultural immersion experience because they are an opportunity for students to learn about the social justice issues surrounding the communities we serve. Students have spoken with unemployed workers about how factory closings have devastated the local economy; they have listened to families and Georgetown alumni describe the hurricane; they have met with immigrants crossing the border. Each of the trips also includes opportunities to learn about the rich and diverse cultures in these communities. Our students have explored national parks and nature reserves, sampled authentic beignets at Café Du Monde and participated in bluegrass jam sessions.

The Editorial Board’s implied dismissal of this “alternative” component is a disservice to the student leaders who carefully planed these experiences.

As an organization, Blanket New Orleans made a commitment to Georgetown University, to the trip participants and to our community partners in New Orleans. Does THE HOYA’s Editorial Board truly believe that organizations and leaders should not be held accountable for their commitments and be responsible for the decisions they make? Is that the type of leadership that we want at Georgetown?

It is unfortunate that Blanket New Orleans will not have a trip to the Gulf Coast next year, but we are firmly committed to supporting students who wish to do social justice work in this region and throughout the country. Indeed, in 2009, the advisory board plans to expand its alternative spring break offerings, using reserve funds to enable 40 to 75 more students to participate in these valuable and transformative programs. In total, we hope to invite 250 to 300 Hoyas to participate.

The CSJ ABSO will continue to support Blanket New Orleans as an organization in its awareness and fundraising activities next year. We believe Blanket New Orleans is taking the right steps to respond to CSJ and the advisory board, and we hope to continue to support them in their important work and help them learn from their errors in judgment. We remain committed to our decision to prohibit a Blanket New Orleans service trip in 2009. We will, however, be happy to support Blanket New Orleans in planning a trip for 2010.

We applaud all of our trip leaders’ continued commitment to creating a valuable experience for our campus and making a difference in the community.

olly Keogh is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and is chair of the Center for Social Justice Advisory Board for Student Organizations.

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