Updated as of Tuesday, March 10 at 8:54 p.m. to include quotes from students.
Elon University's Kernodle Center has confirmed the cancellation of alternative spring break trips to South Dakota and Costa Rica, and Elon Outdoors has confirmed the cancelation of the Belize spring break trip as well, due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Catholic Campus Ministry has also canceled the trip to Jamaica, following the cancelation of several other programs.
The Interfaith with the Lakota Alternative Break program has been canceled, according to the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, following the Oglala Sioux Nation’s decision to close borders to outsiders as a precaution related to the coronavirus.
Fourteen students and two faculty were scheduled to travel to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota during spring break to volunteer with Re-Member, an independent nonprofit organization on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Students were alerted of the change Monday morning by Kyle Anderson, assistant director of student community engagement programs, and Allison Pelyhes, multifaith coordinator, both of whom were coordinating the trip.
In an email to students, Anderson said because the decision to cancel the trip came from the partner, Re-Member, and not the university, students will be offered a full refund. The price of the trip was $650, but some students received scholarships for the trip through the Kernodle Center.
According to freshman Megan Curling, who was planning to go to South Dakota, those who had scholarships will only get back the amount they had paid themselves. The remaining scholarship funds will be returned to the Kernodle Center.
Curling said she hoped to use her scholarship for another volunteer opportunity.
“I asked if the scholarship could be carried over if I did an individual service thing and got it approved,” Curling said. “But [scholarships] can only be used on this year's alternative break and [are] non-transferable.”
Students unable to return home on short notice are allowed to stay at Elon over break. After the trip was canceled, co-leader Ashley Billie said Pelyhes has “begun working on some activities for participants to enjoy if they are unable to go home due to the last-minute changes.”
Billie participated in the alternative break program her freshman year and said she was looking forward to being immersed in a community she loved again.
“As disappointed as I am to hear the news of the cancelation, I respect the nation's right to protect themselves in a midst of something as unnerving and worrying as the coronavirus,” Billie said.
Re-Member has extended an invitation to Elon students to reschedule the trip during their 2020-21 season, and Billie said there is an interest from both participants and student and staff leaders.
“The most unfortunate thing out of all of it is that clearly the people who are going on trips like this want to be doing something beneficial with their break,” Curling said. “But it's one of those things—no one can be mad because that's a very fair thing to do, and we would be very much so endangering their population to come in.”
Following the cancelation of the South Dakota trip was the trip to Costa Rica. On March 10, the alternative break trip trip to Costa Rica was canceled. Freshman Chandler McKelvey planned on going on the trip, but she received an email this morning alerting her it was canceled.
“They were having some concerns about it,” McKelvey said. “Costa Rica released some things this morning, canceling big events and large crowd events.”
Anderson said 10 students and two faculty members were scheduled to participate n the Costa Rica trip.
"In consultation with the GEC, we decided that the risks outweighed the benefits of going and made the move to cancel," Anderson said.
Following the cancelation, students will be refunded in full and are allowed to stay on campus during break. As of right now, Anderson said there are no plans to reschedule.
Freshman Macy Mills was headed to Belize for spring break, another Elon trip canceled due to the coronavirus. The Elon Outdoors trip was canceled March 10.
“There are a few cases of coronavirus in Central America,” Mills said. She received an email this morning confirming the trip cancelation.