Campus reels, but remains resolute

Last Friday, Oct. 13, students and community members were shocked by the outcome of UVM senior Michelle Gardner-Quinn’s disappearance. Since the report of Gardner-Quinn’s death was released on Friday evening, feelings of anguish and sorrow have lingered on both the UVM campus and across the city of Burlington.Immediately following the news that Gardner-Quinn’s body had been discovered, students, faculty, and community members mourned their loss together in a candle-lit vigil on the campus green. Photos of Gardner-Quinn were placed by the fountain, in the center of Waterman Green, and many who gathered left flowers to show their remembrance.UVM junior Stephanie Goodrich expressed her thoughts on how the city is coping with this tragedy. “I think the whole Burlington community is just floored by this and saddened that it could happen here,” Goodrich said. “You just never know. You never know no matter where you are. This world is full of twisted people.” After a weeklong search of Burlington and the surrounding areas, the UVM community remained hopeful that police leads would result in the return of their fellow student. UVM sophomore Lauren McGonagle hoped that Gardner-Quinn had simply decided to take some personal time and go elsewhere. “I’ve had the inclination myself just to sort of take off and go somewhere,” McGonagle said. “I was really hoping she had a whim to go away and she would turn up somewhere safe.”As the week progressed, McGonagle feared that the disappearance could only end adversely. “I think all of us were pretty certain that after a while with no contact something awful must have happened,” she said. The tragedy has caused many students, both male and female, to question how safe the city of Burlington really is. UVM freshman Ben Weis previously thought nothing of a female walking alone late at night, yet now in light of what has taken place, he reconsiders his previous indifference. “I didn’t think anything of it at all before. But now, it gets me a little concerned,” Weis said.As for the safety of Burlington in general, Weis said that the city feels less safe now, but that “only time will tell.”UVM President Fogel assured the campus community of his continued commitment towards safety, both within the UVM campus and in the city of Burlington.”Ours is a close-knit and very caring community,” Fogel said. “We continue to feel that it is a relatively safe one, on and off campus, but our regular reviews of campus programs to support public safety will gather urgency from this tragedy.”Since it appears that the incident occurred on Main Street in downtown Burlington, many students can relate to the situation of walking up to campus at night. Goodrich, who works at the downtown bar Red Square, was seen on the same video surveillance cameras as Gardner-Quinn only minutes later.”It shows her walking by at 2:34 and at 2:45 you see me and my co-worker walking up the hill,” Goodrich said. “It just was so scary and disturbing that I was that close to the situation.” In an effort to discover the whereabouts of Gardner-Quinn earlier in the week, many students aided the search in any way that they could. Some students assisted police by distributing missing posters around Burlington neighborhoods while others looked around for articles of clothing or accessories that may have been Gardner-Quinn’s.In addition, a group was created on the popular social-networking Web site Facebook in an attempt to increase awareness of her disappearance and to provide photos to aid the public in the search. The group’s discussion board now holds messages of love and prayer for Gardner-Quinn and her family. The incident has also left many students and community members wondering what the next step will be in approaching the subject of violence against women. LuAnn Rolley, the director of the UVM Women’s Center believes that it is very important that we don’t forget Gardner-Quinn in the coming months and years. “We need to strategize about ways to move forward and collaborate with and mobilize students around issues of violence in our community,” Rolley said. “This is a national and global crisis and we need to make that visible on campus.”Fogel believes that, most importantly, the campus community should continue to take care of themselves and their friends while showing their love and support for Gardner-Quinn and her family. “In mourning Michelle, we should also take some solace in knowing that, in the words of her mother to me, she was ‘blossoming at UVM’ and we should look forward to the time when we begin to emerge from grief and can focus on and celebrate her special qualities, above all the vitality and warmth that made her so many friends in her brief time as a member of the UVM family,” Fogel said.On reflection of this past week’s events, UVM junior Troy Ault expressed hope that the Burlington community will meditate on this and remain safe in the future.”Regardless of whether people knew Michelle, I think they should all try to take something from this and learn from the experience,” Ault said.