The popular program’s future is in question
This past July, it was announced by CU Denver administration that the Lynx Alternative Breaks program was put on hiatus while the student life administrators analyze areas of concerns. As of the date of writing, there is no reimplementation date given, despite applications being accepted and funding being secured for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Life and Residential Education, Meloni Rudolph Crawford, said that the program is being audited on “two major areas of concern.” The first concern is about student safety and current guidelines for responding to crises such as injury or sexual assault on the trips, as well as liability issues to the university. The second reason is ensuring that “the ratio of students involved to number of student fee dollars is an effective use of student fees,” Crawford said.
The purpose of the program was to provide students with opportunities to serve their local community and others abroad, as an alternative to traditional vacation destinations during breaks in the academic year. An important distinction from alternative breaks in comparison to other volunteering opportunities, was the focus on avoiding falling into the white-savior complex or enabling voluntourism, which has a become a problem for many humanitarian efforts.
In the past, if selected for one of the trips, there was a variable fee based on if the trip was domestic or international, as well as multiple meetings to attend in the months prior to the trip. Previous attendees could also choose to apply for the position of trip leader in which they were assigned a partner and could design an alternative break of their own—including which social issue to focus on and the location to travel to.
The Alternative Breaks program at CU Denver provided many students a way to both connect with the campus and other students, while learning more about communities outside of Denver. Senior, Christina Cheung, was a previous AB attendee and applicant for trip leader. “The reason I stayed at CU Denver was participating in my AB back in Spring 2016… [which] led to me applying to become a PAL,” Cheung said. “It changed the course of my college career.”
President of CU Denver Student Government Association Matthew Kriese said the following about the situation: “I am unsatisfied that individuals in higher administration made this decision not only without consulting students who were involved with this program, but also student leaders, such as the Student Fee Review Committee, who oversee the allocation of student fees including… Community Engagement and Alternative Breaks. However, after conversations with the individuals in higher administration who made this decision, it is clear that this oversight won’t happen again in the future or else there will be consequences. I am also happy that higher administration is willing to speak with these students who lost the program they enjoyed, as well as student leaders who were overseen in this process openly.”
However, there is hope that the program will be reinstated. A focus group was held on Sept. 11 for students to voice their opinions about alternative breaks. The Office of Student Life encourages students to look at the travel opportunities available through the Wellness Center and Study Abroad office in the meantime.