UVM Steps Toward Action

Even on the brightest nights, many students at UVM fear walking alone after dark. This fear, which affects students living both on and off campus, is an issue that has been brought to the forefront after the recent tragedy involving the death of Michelle Gardner-Quinn. The question now is where does the University go from here? How can UVM make sure that students not only feel safe, but are safe after dark?Recently, Benway’s Taxi Service and Friendly Fare Taxi Service began accepting CatScratch as a payment method in an attempt to get students to take a cab rather than walk alone.Another proposal is the creation of a Safe-Walk or Safe-Ride program. Although the idea was brought up before the Gardner-Quinn incident, it has recently gained recognition by both UVM Police Services and the Women’s Center.Transfer student James Barris teamed up with Clarissa Gottshall, a sophomore at UVM and the coordinator of the Community Service Scholarships Program, to spearhead a meeting on Thursday Oct. 26 to discuss details. Representatives from each InterResidence Association (IRA), Men Advocating Change, and the Student Government Association (SGA) attended. In addition, Gary Margolis, UVM police chief, and Brenda Tetrault, a UVM officer, were there to show their support. According to Margolis, this is not a new idea for the University. While attending UVM in the 1980s, Margolis served as a member of CatPatrol, a student organization that provided campus safety, including safe rides home, in addition to Police Services. With the start of the bus and CatCard systems, there was no longer a need for the service. Although there were attempts both in 1998 and 2001 to restart a similar service, there were problems with staffing as well as recruiting enough interest among students. No newly interested students attended the meeting. The basic premise of the program is a hotline that students, faculty, and staff could call if they didn’t feel safe walking after dark. “It would be for anyone who didn’t feel safe. It wouldn’t matter if there were one, two, or 20 people calling for a ride or walk home, if they didn’t feel safe we wouldn’t turn them away,” Barris said. “If you have the interest, it won’t be hard to find money to make it happen,” Margolis told students at the meeting. He also said that there is still a radio frequency available for dispatchers and volunteers if the program were to be realized. As for the issue of volunteers, Tetrault suggested that UVM could work in conjunction with Champlain College. Since Champlain has a Criminal Justice program, working for a Safe-Walk or Safe-Ride service could perhaps be considered an internship for those students. Other suggestions included working with the Athletics Department or allowing students who find themselves in disciplinary trouble with the University to work off their punishment rather than receive a fine. Many suggestions were made, but the consensus was that nothing could be done until it was determined whether this was a service in which UVM students would be interested When asked if this was an idea that seemed plausible, Matt Tosi, a junior at UVM, said he probably would not use the service. “I don’t think I would call the hotline, but if I saw a bus while I was out after dark I would probably jump on it.” If you are interested in getting involved with starting a Safe-Walk or Safe-Ride service at UVM, contact Clarissa Gottshall at [email protected] or James Barris at [email protected]