Yale Week in Mexico to carry on despite concerns

Despite growing concerns about drug-related violence along the border of Texas and Mexico, a group of Yale affiliates will spend the next week in the country to raise Yale’s profile south of the border.

About 150 Elis, including students, alumni and faculty, will travel to Mexico City and Monterrey next week for the University’s largest-ever Yale Week in Mexico. The trip’s agenda will include community service, academic lectures and musical performances intended to boost the University’s visibility among business, civic and educational leaders in Mexico.

“We also want to raise awareness among prospective students and the general public,” Joao Aleixo, assistant secretary of the Office of International Affairs, said. “People should know about Yale and about the need-blind admissions policy. Yale is looking to recruit Mexico’s best and brightest. We want to let them know they should apply regardless of background.”

Aleixo said those planning the trip are well aware of security concerns stemming from a recent escalation in drug-related violence that has claimed the lives of 1,000 Mexicans since January.

Aleixo said he feels confident the University has done everything it can to ensure the travelers’ safety. Areas along the northern border with the United States, including Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, have seen the worst violence. Monterrey is over 200 miles southeast of these areas; Mexico City is over 600 miles away.

“One of the things that makes us comfortable is that we’ve been into touch with the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey,” Aleixo said.

The University coordinated the trip with Consul General Bruce Williamson ’78, a representative of the U.S. Department of State who oversees five states in northern Mexico, administrators at Tec de Monterrey and local government officials. Aleixo said everyone from Yale will be escorted at all times by personnel from Tec de Monterrey.

A spokesman for the United States Department of State did not respond to repeated requests for comment Thursday. The Department has not added Mexico to its list of travel warnings, but a travel alert posted to the Department’s Web site Feb. 20 said U.S. citizens traveling in Mexico should exercise caution.

“Mexican and foreign bystanders have been injured or killed in violent attacks in cities across the country,” the alert reads, “demonstrating the heightened risk of violence in public places.”

Three professors and one student taking part in Yale Week in Mexico said they feel reasonably safe attending the trip given the precautions that have been taken.

Susan Rose-Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, said she has family members living in Mexico. For them, the heightened levels of violence are “an issue of concern, but not something that dominates life,” she said.

Rose-Ackerman plans to deliver a lecture in Mexico City on government accountability and the rule of law.

The delegation hopes to strengthen Yale’s relationship with Tec de Monterrey, Aleixo said, which has become a significant part of the university’s international network in recent years. Tec de Monterrey began sending students to New Haven to participate in Yale Summer Session in 2005, and the University founded its Bulldogs in Monterrey summer internship program at Tec de Monterrey in 2006. This summer, a new Yale Summer Session course in public health will be available to both Yale and Tec de Monterrey students, who will live and study on Tec de Monterrey’s main campus.

The week will also see the inaugural Yale Alumni Service Tour in Mexico, along with concerts given by the Whiffenpoofs and the Yale Concert Band.

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