Safety on campus: part two

Although the College has proposed multiple improvements to outdoor lighting on campus, many students feel that the changes are more pressing than the indefinite dates they are scheduled for.

The changes, some of which will take place this year, are a response to student concerns voiced to the administration. Improvements to the lighting on Mayflower Hill in particular were accelerated after a car accident in September, in which a student was hit in a crosswalk at dusk.

In the early 2000s, the College designed a master plan of campus development, which set design standards for fixtures such as signs and lighting. According to Vice President for Administration Doug Terp, outdoor lighting has continually evolved in terms of both design and approach, most evident through the College’s phasing in of new lamp styles. “That’s why there are three different styles right now,” Terp said. The original lamps resemble “lanterns,” while the newer lamps are box-shaped or conical.

Currently, the College’s first priority is improving the lighting and traffic safety on the Mayflower Hill roadway. “A combination of student suggestions, PPD suggestions, and our own analysis” led to this shift, Terp said. After the car accident in September, “we ended up accelerating work on Mayflower Hill drive,” he added.

The College also plans to install “traffic calming measures,” including speed bumps as cars approach the Diamond Building from the south and Davis Science Center from the north, as well as enhanced lighting along the roadway. “Some of those [changes] we can do really quickly and some will take a little longer,” Terp said.

Lighting changes elsewhere on campus will take place farther down the road, Terp said. The College plans to improve lighting in areas including Runnals Drive, Bixler Drive, the pathway from Lorimer Chapel to the Alfond Apartments, the tunnels 

under the science buildings on Miller quad and potentially along the pathways of Miller quad itself. However, many students remain concerned—and even displeased—about the indefinite timeframe and feel the changes are high priority given the approaching winter.

“I feel unsafe with the lighting on campus,” Holly Hogan ’17 said. “Lighting is critical everywhere on campus, because we do live on a hill, and in the winter the black ice is hard enough to see with lights, not to mention without it.” She wishes to see improvements to lighting on Miller Quad, considering that many students work in academic buildings late into the night and must travel across the quad.

According to Terp, the College considered lighting Miller Quad in the early 2000s, but many people “didn’t want it brightly lit.”

Sarah Carrigan ’16 and Eric Walton ’17 echoed Hogan’s concerns about the ice. “I have known many people to trip, or slip, in the winter, on their way home from the library,” Carrigan said. Walton feels that poor lighting makes a late night walk from the library “more of an expedition than it needs to be.”

For Melissa Barrie Lehmann ’16J, the problem has little to do with winter. “Having to park in Hillside and walk up to Heights is creepy,” she said. “I don’t really go to my car and drive anywhere after the sun goes down.” She often trips over rocks and roots trying to carry groceries to her room after dark, she added.

“If both of my hands are full of bags, I can’t use the flashlight on my phone,” Barrie Lehmann said. “But I shouldn’t have to rely on my phone light to walk on a path on this campus.”

Other students instead pinpoint strategic improvements that can be made to the already-existing lighting, better utilizing each streetlamp. “I’ve noticed that some of the lights that we have are out,” Hogan said. Joseph Malionek ’17 feels that “a good deal of Colby’s streetlamps aren’t well directed and scatter too much light.”

Terp agreed with Malionek’s observation, noting that the College’s original “lantern” streetlamps “tend to cause a bright light as opposed to pushing the light down….We’ve been trying migrate away from the lanterns.”

Amid the clamor for additional lighting, some students also acknowledge and appreciate that the current amount of lighting helps minimize light pollution. “As an environmentalist, I am a big supporter of limiting the amount of light pollution contributed by Colby,” Malionek said.

“Coming to Colby, I was mesmerized by how many stars we could see on top of Mayflower Hill,” Nadia Stovicek ’17 said. “However…it would give me an added sense of security to improve the lighting around Davis and Diamond, as well as [Runnals Drive]. Basically I think there should be more lighting in [places] with car access.”

Despite the dissatisfaction and suggested improvements from many students, still, there are others who don’t feel that lighting on campus is a problem in the first place. “I’m not sure if I’m odd or too lax, but I feel perfectly safe walking across campus at 1 a.m. by myself,” Kasey Kirschner ’16 said.

Oliver Ponce ’15 agreed. “However, I think the safeness I feel results largely from being male,” he said. “I seldom think of my safety at night on campus.”

Over the summer, some students directly voiced their concerns to the administration, Terp said, and SGA has been discussing the issue this year as well. Others, including faculty and staff, periodically report specific areas on campus.

“I have talked to President Greene about it and I am aware that administration is having conversation about lighting on campus,” Hogan said. “I can only hope they take our concerns seriously. From talking to others I know I am not the only one worried.”

According to Terp, the College’s continual analysis involves mapping out lighting levels and surveying light conditions, particularly the overlap of lighting from adjacent lamps, “finding where the edges are.” PPD, who reports to Terp, must also determine what area on a given lamppost requires modification. “In some cases, it’s just switching out the fixture. Sometimes it’s getting an entire new pole,” Terp said. “It’s deciding what those changes are and pulling that together.”

One challenge of determining the proper amount of lighting on campus is the foliage, which only obstructs streetlamps in certain seasons, Terp said. He also pointed out that “sometimes if you increase lighting in one area, you make the other seem [darker].”

Though the College has many walkways, PPD is “going to have to target specific areas” with the most foot traffic, making it difficult to ensure that every path is optimally lit, Terp added.

The heart of the issue is that “we all have different light sensitivities,” he said.

Terp emphasized that students, faculty and staff with suggestions should not hesitate to “send them along.