Journalism sophomore Eve Stewart doesn’t exactly remember when she learned about Kristin Smart’s disappearance in 1996, but recalls hearing little “remarks” when she lived in the Red Brick residence halls as a freshman.
“You know, we hear all these stories,” Stewart said. “At least I did growing up, of women, who went missing and were pronounced dead. But it’s hard to resonate with that.”
However, as a six-foot-tall blond girl that grew up in Salinas, Stewart said her similarities made her feel close to Smart.
On the 27th anniversary of Kristin Smart’s disappearance, students held a vigil for Smart, in addition to repairing her memorial near Santa Lucia Hall.
“I want people to know who Kristin Smart is and feel connected to her and feel her presence in the sense that she was a real person,” Stewart, the Panhellenic Vice President of Philanthropy and Service, said.
In January, the memorial was damaged and destroyed by the extreme rain conditions.
“I would walk by and I would see, the wind and the rain kind of had its way with the memorial and it was really sad,” Stewart said.
The memorial was first created by history junior Michelle Mueller in 2021, as a reminder of Smart’s impact on Cal Poly’s history.
One month after the verdict declaring Paul Flores guilty of Smart’s murder, Stewart reached out to HerCampus with the idea to hold a vigil to honor Smart’s legacy.
“I think another reason it was so important, Eve reached out to HerCampus because we’re an all-women’s magazine,” HerCampus event coordinator Sahara Mofidi said. “We’ve got to stick together and support each other.”
Music played as attendees were encouraged to light candles around the memorial site. Stewart and other attendees sprinkled purple flower seeds that rebloom during the summer, the color associated with the movement ‘Justice for Kristin’.
“I hope that people step away from this feeling connected to her and inspired to make positive change in our community for the safety of women,” Stewart said.
27 purple flowers with metal-wired stems were planted into the surrounding lawn to signify the 27 years since Smart’s disappearance.
The crowd also took a moment of silence.
“I think it’s powerful coming from women who resonate with her [Smart], who would have been friends with her,” Stewart said.
Stewart and Mofidi acknowledge that, while Smart’s legacy led to some campus changes, more can be done. Mofidi said the least the university could do is send an email each year on the day of her disappearance, to honor the student.
Stewart also mentioned that students still live in room 127, where Flores once lived.
“The amount of change that has happened in this campus because of Kristin Smart – it’s not so significant,” Mofidi said. “There’s emergency lights and the people that come and pick you up, which is great. But there is also an idea that whenever a staff member or someone walks by it [the memorial], we need to do more.”