Bethany Montgomery, Editor-in-chief
For the past several years, the call for adequate lighting in campus parking lots has become a common cry. From the dorm parking lot to the lot at the foot of the Grand Staircase, students have reported feeling uncomfortable and often nervous walking to their cars or back to their dorms at night. This has especially been a problem for commuter students who often stay on campus late and must walk back to their cars after dark, which comes much earlier in the winter.
At the end of the spring 2018 semester, SMU released a Campus Climate Survey to gain insight on how students felt about the lighting on campus. According to the data collected, 34.4 percent of students who participated agreed that the university provided adequate lighting for students on campus. Following these results, the Offices of Public Safety and Facilities sought for an economical and efficient answer to remedy the situation. With use of a grant from Puget Sound Energy, Director of Facilities Phil Cheek, was able to reduce the overall costs of the new lights and installation fees. Will Stakelin, Director of Public Safety, described the new lighting plan in an email. “The plan involved replacing existing older metal halide lights with new energy efficient LED fixtures and bulbs. The LED lighting offers a brighter light that uses significantly less watts than the older lights. The new lighting not only increases the brightness and coverage area, but it also has a longer life span and significantly reduces university energy costs. The new lighting is estimated to reduce to energy costs by approximately $11,943 a year and pay for itself over the course of the next several years.”
After conducting a lighting assessment to determine the best places for the new installations, Cheek and Stakelin presented their project proposal to President Roy Heynderickx before signing Pacific Lighting as contractors for the project. The official lighting installation took place over Christmas break, with a few minor adjustments to be made. According to Stakelin, the areas that received the lighting changes included “All residence hall parking lots, exterior of residence halls, student pathways to residence halls from the TUB, area around the TUB, the softball field parking lot, all Pavilion parking lots, the large gravel overflow lot by the baseball field, the student parking lot by grand staircase, sections of the grand staircase, transitional areas from Harned Hall across Baran to Pavilion, the wooded area between Baran Hall and TUB, better light coverage on areas around the lots and better roadway lighting on Baran Drive through central campus and several other buildings.”
As the offices continue to assess the efficiency of the new lighting, they hope that students will feel safer walking on campus after dark. Student safety is a huge priority at Saint Martin’s, and without students voicing their concerns, changes like these cannot happen.
Students who still feel uncomfortable walking alone to their cars or to the dorms are encouraged to walk with a friend or in groups, and can always call the Office of Public Safety at (360) 438-4555 for an escort.