The discovery Tuesday morning of the remains of Morgan Dana Harrington, the Virginia Tech student who had been missing since Oct. 17after leaving a concert at John Paul Jones Arena, brought profound grief to her family and friends and sadness to two university communities.
At Virginia Tech, where Morgan, 20, was a junior education major, President Charles Steger said the news took away hope for a happy ending.
This news also brings with it a reminder that while the Charlottesville area is considered to be safe, bad things can and do happen. And college-age students are particularly vulnerable.
In the midst of their grief, Morgan’s parents, Dan and Gil, and their son Alex, a U.Va. alum, continue to advocate campus safety and the need for students to take personal safety seriously. They are especially concerned that the person responsible for their daughter’s death may remain in our community and they want to remind students to be on alert.In an interview last week, the Harringtons said that women especially are at risk when they walk or jog alone.
“We didn’t want Morgan to go out by herself alone,” her father said. “There are so many things that if we could change, we would have a different outcome.”
It is a heart-breaking reminder to us all.
While I have included a more comprehensive safety checklist at the end of this e-mail, I would like to remind you of a few key things that should be part of your routine as you travel on Grounds and in the surrounding community.
- Please do not walk alone after dark. If you have no choice, call a friend before venturing out to let him or her know what route you are taking.
- Please do not get into a car unless you know the driver.
- Please do not get into a taxi unless you are sure that it is a registered taxi with a meter.
- Please get involved. If you see a fellow student in need of help,offer it. Do not leave another incapacitated student alone, whether or not you know her or him. If you cannot offer immediate assistance, call 911.
- Please rely on University Police if you are in distress or believe you are in danger. If you have been drinking, are not able to travel on your own, and/or feel vulnerable or threatened, call 911 immediately. Never hesitate to contact University Police. They are trained to help our students and they would rather you call them even if the situation turns out not to be dire. Remember, calling UPD is always the safest option.
Nothing is more important in our University community than your safety and security. Safety, however, should be a personal as well as a community goal.
One way to honor Morgan Harrington’s life is to become an advocate for safety on college campuses, here and elsewhere. Please feel free to share this message with your friends at colleges and universities around the country.
For those who knew Morgan personally and might be grieving her loss, know that there is counseling support available through the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services at 243-5150.
I encourage each of you to take a moment to review the additional general safety guidelines included below. These are useful at any time and in any situation.
Patricia M. Lampkin
Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer
Additional safety guidelines from University Police
- Call 911 from any phone, including your cell phone. You will be connected to a regional dispatcher who will send help based on your location.
- If you are on Grounds, just pick up one of the blue light telephones. You automatically will be connected to University Police.
- Trust your instincts about a person or situation. If you feel uncomfortable, immediately report your concerns to police by calling 911.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Remember that talking on a cell phone or listening to music can be distracting, especially if you are crossing the street or not paying attention to your surroundings.
- Avoid isolated areas.
- Avoid walking alone at night. Use Safe Ride, walk with friends, or take a late-night weekend bus.
- Safe Ride provides service between midnight and 6 a.m. from Sunday night through Friday morning. On Saturdays and Sundays, Safe Ride operates from 3a.m. to 6 a.m. The telephone number is 434-242-1122.
- Late-night buses: Service for University buses is extended every weekend until 2:30 a.m. when school is in session. The routes and schedules are available on the UTS website.
- Use the lighted pathway system.
- Tell a friend where you are going and when you will return.
- Remember that alcohol use can dull judgment and lead to a false sense of security. When going out to a party, create a plan ahead of time with friends so you watch out for one another and get home safely.
Residence Hall Safety
- Never allow strangers to follow you into the building.
- Call 911 if you see someone in the building who seems suspicious.
- Never prop open card reader doors or leave room doors open.
- Secure doors and windows prior to leaving.
- Keep doors and windows locked.
- Use outdoor lighting.
- Trim shrubs and trees to prevent the possibility of prowlers hiding in dense, darkened areas.
- Close curtains or pull blinds at night.
- Do not hesitate to contact police, by calling 911, about a person or situation that does not seem right. You will not have to give your name to police.
- If you see any of the following, immediately call the police at 911: a prowler; someone peeping into a residence; an individual who appears to be unauthorized and watching, photographing or filming an area; or any other suspicious behavior.
- Work with your neighbors and fellow community members to ensure a safe environment.