Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students and UMPD work together during the annual ‘Walk for Light’

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

The University of Massachusetts Police Department held its annual Walk for Light Monday night. Approximately 30 volunteers attended the event and toured campus to identify outdoor safety issues.

Attendees identify problems in group walks, divided by different areas on campus. Safety issues like lighting problems or overgrown bushes and trees are noted on forms for each group and then compiled into a single report by UMPD and sent out to the physical plant, said UMPD Deputy Chief Patrick Archbald. Repair jobs are then divided among the appropriate departments.

The timeline of repairs varies according to the complexity of the issue, Archbald said. Lighting, for example, tends to be fixed in less time than other more complicated safety concerns.

Volunteers do not enter buildings or dorms in their search for safety hazards.

“This is primarily an exterior view of campus safety,” Archbald said.

Volunteers, as well as Archbald, said they felt that the Walk for Light should address safety problems concerning women, specifically sexual assault on campus.

“Well, I think in terms of walking on campus in the evenings, there is a heightened awareness and concern for women,” Archbald said.

“We feel we have (a) sexual assault problem on campus, and this is a good first (step),” said Jess Shortlidge, a sophomore and an associate director of the Residence Hall Association, majoring in psychology and sociology. She said recent surveys of the UMass population indicate that up to one in four students at the University have been sexually assaulted.

“Lighting is about being protected and aware (of) external threats,” said Stefan Herlitz, secretary of University policy for the Student Government Association.

He added that sexual assault is not fully combated by this event’s solutions (i.e. better lighting), as most sexual assaults happen in normal settings, perpetrated by someone the victim knows.

“This isn’t the catch-all, end-all,” Herlitz said.

Both Herlitz and Henry Wykowski, a utility electrician at UMass, said that the Walk for Light is limited because it is being done when leaves have already fallen, meaning that the lights that are blocked by leaves and can no longer be identified.

“We really should do a Walk for Light in the spring, when (the) leaves come back,” Herlitz said.

Substandard lighting, which included lights that were nonfunctional, faded or flickering, was tagged with orange tape wrapped around the poles, which were then also noted by number.

“(In) certain areas at night, lights have been out, haven’t necessarily been responded to in the fastest kind of way,” said Kabir Thatte, chairman of the Administrative Affairs Committee of the SGA. “I want students to feel safe on their own campus.”

“I walk around campus all the time, and I want better lights,” Herlitz said.

SGA senator Ryan DiZoglio also identified the distance between blue-light phones as an issue, especially in front of Hotel UMass at the center of campus, where there is no blue-light phone that students could easily access in an emergency.

Archbald said that the blue-light phones are checked once each month.

“(The) biggest problem (is that there are) so many different lights,” Wykowski said. “There’s funds for (fixing lighting), it’s just a matter of figuring out where you’re going to put it all.”

Wykowski added that changing all broken or substandard lighting could mean changing the whole campus. He also said that when additions are built onto buildings on campus, street lighting is often never installed.

“It gets caught up in the shuffle,” Wykowski said.

He used McGuirk Stadium as an example, which underwent a multimillion dollar renovation with “no provisions for outside lighting at all.”

Archbald said that the evaluation of the noted concerns is done by the physical plant, which weighs each issue against the others.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at [email protected].


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