Campus lighting re-evaluated

It’s no question that college students often don’t follow the typical 9-to-5 schedule, and walking to and from campus can be a nerve-racking trek during those late-night hours. On Tuesday evening, ASUO President Emma Kallaway met with facility services for a night safety walk to identify areas on campus where increased lighting is necessary.

Kallaway came up with the idea during last year’s elections after speaking with students and realizing that many are often on campus past dark to study, work or even socialize.

During the safety walk, Kallaway discussed areas where safety could be improved with ASUO Vice President Getachew Kassa, ASUO Programs Administrator Conrad Hulen, Department of Public Safety officers and members of facility management. Together, they identified such areas, taking into consideration the 24-hour library schedule, work schedules that require some students to be on campus late into the night, and the 79x bus route that transports students until 2 a.m.

The group determined that the main areas of concern are the parking lots, especially EMU parking lot 29 and the 79x bus stop behind the Lillis Business Complex. They would also like to see more emergency call boxes on campus that are easily accessible to students.

“You should be able to turn 360 degrees and see at least one call box,” Kassa said.

Another area being considered for improvement is the west side of University Street, which runs alongside the Pioneer Cemetery, across from McArthur Court.

Kallaway is proposing that the University change the yellow, high-pressure, sodium light bulbs currently used on campus to white metal halide light bulbs. The white light reflects better on various skin tones and disperses the light further, she said. Some lights on campus have already been switched, including the lights on the northwest corner of the library after Kallaway put in a request for the change last month. Kallaway is pleased with the efficiency and results of the new lights, saying they “create a more welcoming campus environment and address the student lifestyle.”

Walking around alone at night puts students at risk because they are less aware of their surroundings in the dark, Kallaway said.

“Lighting has a lot to do with whether you can identify an attacker, or remove yourself from an area where a predator might be near you,” Kallaway said. “It’s easier for an attacker to hide in the dark.”

While the cemetery is also a safety concern, facilities management is opposed to lighting inside the cemetery because it would welcome students to use the cemetery as a walking route.

“We want to encourage students to go around the cemetery and find an alternate route — it’s not safe to be in the cemetery at night,” facilities manager Tim King said.

To increase safety in this area, the vegetation has been cut down and white lights have been installed in certain areas, which provides fewer hiding options for an attacker.

The white light is part of the new lighting standards, so any time construction requiresadditional lighting, the high-wattage, white lights will be installed. However, additional bulb changes are expected to cost around $800 each, and the high cost may delay any immediate changes.

“Funding is a serious issue,” King said. “We have to set priorities … and we will do what we can.”

At the end of the walk, the team listed their lighting priorities: the bus stop and the computing center, and the EMU lot.

Besides finding enough funding for the safety project, facilities management is facing opposition from those who feel increased lighting causes light pollution.

“It’s a balancing act,” said King, who added he would like to compromise between creating a safe and environmentally-friendly campus.

King also proposed that the University consider painting duck feet using reflective paint in certain spots on campus to direct students towards the safest, well-lit areas. King said the idea behind the feet is to encourage students to take the best route, even if it is the more indirect path.

Kallaway said she would like to pursue the idea. 

ASUO will continue to work with facility management and discuss safety-improvement plans for the campus.

“It’s important that people feel safe because safety affects everything else, even your ability to learn,” DPS deputy director Carolyn McDermed said.

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