Date: October 16, 2011
To: All U.Va. Students
From: Patricia M. Lampkin, Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer
Re: Safety and Bystander Behavior
Tomorrow will mark two years since Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student visiting Charlottesville, disappeared after leaving a concert at John Paul Jones Arena. Three months after her disappearance, in January 2010, her body was discovered on a farm about eight miles south of the University. Her death was ruled a homicide, and the person or persons responsible have not been found.
This tragic story serves to remind us of the continued attention that we need to pay to safety and of the unfortunate fact that predators exist within our society, often seeking out young, vulnerable victims. While fear should not rule our daily activities, we do have a duty to one another to remain vigilant and to take steps to increase safety, both individually and as a community.
Ms. Harrington's family will be in Charlottesville tomorrow, visiting the site on Copeley Bridge where Morgan was last seen alive. They have recently launched a campaign, "Help Save the Next Girl," to emphasize the need for vigilance and actions that will help prevent other young women from being the victims of similar violence. More information is available on the website.
Bystander behavior is something that students themselves have addressed in the past. The bystander effect, which stems from apathy, wanting to go along with the crowd, and not speaking up or intervening when disturbing behavior occurs, can mean the difference between life and death.
If you see actions that could endanger others, I encourage you to speak up and to take the initiative to counteract the bystander effect. Some of you, for example, may have friends and acquaintances who engage in so-called "urban exploration" of the Grounds and surrounding area. Going into the steam tunnels, climbing onto rooftops, scaling water towers, and related activities are not only dangerous but also against the law. Last year, first-year student Tommy Gilliam died as the result of a fall from the rooftop of the physics building. Tommy was gifted and well-loved by many within the University and beyond; needless to say, his loss was devastating for his family and friends.
Testing boundaries and taking risks is healthy in the right context, but not when it puts you or others in an unwarranted path of danger. Taking responsibility for your own safety and remaining alert, especially in our post-911 world, is part of being an adult and part of becoming a fully educated citizen.
These are specific ways in which you can assume greater responsibility for your own safety and for that of the community at large:
Student self-governance, as you know, involves both responsibility and freedom. In that spirit, I thank all of you who are working in partnership with us and the police to keep the community safe. I hope this communication will encourage you to do even more in the future.
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Last Modified: Monday, 17-Oct-2011 10:55:05 EDT
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