Although Vassar College continuously works to establish safe spaces for the entire College community, there are certainly ways in which their efforts can be improved. We at The Miscellany News acknowledge that Vassar strives to prioritize the emotional and physical well-being of students, faculty and staff. Despite these efforts, the lack of adequate lighting along the South Commons, Town Houses, Terrace Apartments and Sunset Lake paths pose a significant threat to the Vassar community’s emotional and physical well-being, and must be addressed.
With the recent construction of the new Science Center the lack of adequate lighting on the Academic Quad is especially concerning. Since the beginning of the academic year, lights have intermittently been going out along the path from Main Building to the South Parking Lot.
At the time of publication, there is a total of three non-working lights between Main and the South Commons path. This is particularly problematic for students who walk along this path at night, such as those returning to the South Commons or going to Skinner Hall to practice. Ultimately, this lack of lighting poses a safety threat by compromising pedestrians’ ability to see other people who may be in the area, as well as objects on the ground that may cause them to trip or fall. As winter quickly approaches, those walking along poorly lit paths are at more of a risk of slipping and falling on unseen wet leaves, or patches of ice.
In the area surrounding New England Building, this lack of adequate lighting is compounded by the additional safety threat of banner-adorned fences, which are intended to hide the construction. However, this creates an enclosed space that potential predators can occupy without being readily detected by pedestrians walking along these paths. In this sense, the academic quad has become a potentially unsafe space for frequent nighttime walkers.
In addition to people feeling unsafe walking along the academic quad, this lack of adequate lighting can also be found in other areas on campus. Lights frequently going dark along the path leading back to the Town Houses pose a definite safety risk for those walking back to their houses after dark.
Furthermore, the complete lack of lights around Sunset Lake makes that area of campus a definite hazard for nighttime walkers, especially those who use that path to walk from the Terrace Apartments to the South Parking Lot, and for those walking from the South Commons to the Terrace Apartments or Walker Field House.
Furthermore, the outage of Blue Lights, particularly the one nearest Sunset Lake and Shipping and Receiving, poses an additional threat to the safety of the campus community. Blue Lights immediately connect students located in remote areas of campus such as Sunset Lake, Shipping and Receiving, and the Tennis Courts to the Campus Response Center, and thus give many students walking at night an added sense of security. For many students, if a Blue Light is out, this not only makes them uneasy, but also poses a substantial threat to their safety should an emergency arise.
We acknowledge that the College provides students with various resources that facilitate nighttime transportation around campus. The Campus Shuttle, as well as Safety and Security’s promise to drive students back to their residences when they are feeling unsafe, provide students with excellent alternatives to walking in the dark. However, for some students this dependence on Safety and Security effectively eliminates their ability to travel between places on campus at will. Additionally, waiting for a ride between campus buildings often takes time, and as a result many students find that walking is a faster solution.
Despite concerns expressed by students regarding this lack of lighting, few feel that their complaints have been acknowledged. Many students have raised the issue to their representatives in the Vassar Student Association (VSA) as well as Resident Operations Center (ROC) employees, yet have not received any indication that their problems were being addressed. We hope that parties both within the VSA and the ROC publicly acknowledge that they are aware of these complaints and that they are actively working on fixing the problems, thus reassuring students that their voices are being heard.
In addition to this, we call for an easier, more transparent process by which students can file a direct complaint regarding the lack of lighting on campus paths. For many students, it is not abundantly clear which parties they should contact within the VSA, ROC or Buildings and Grounds in order to bring up an issue such as this.
By providing a comprehensive directory of who to contact if one has a particular problem on both the Buildings and Grounds and VSA websites, we hope to make the complaint process more accessible to all students, thereby widening the channels of discourse.
We realize that large-scale changes on Vassar’s campus take time and thorough planning before they can be executed. Yet in the meantime, there are many temporary solutions that Vassar could implement to make the process of walking at night a safer experience for all. Additional security patrol in poorly lit areas such as the Academic Quad and around Sunset Lake may make students feel considerably safer when walking at night.
Ultimately, we at The Miscellany News feel that by implementing these simple changes, the College would not only put worried students at ease, but would also further its goal of providing safe spaces for the entire campus community.
—The Staff Editorial represents the opinion of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.