(Image via bostonglobe.com)
Sports Editor: Shailyn Bacchiocchi
On Tuesday, March 21st, I was invited to take a walk around campus with various members of the University to explore the new Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) measures being taken on campus.
As a note, the CPTED has been implemented at UMass Dartmouth since 2011; this is just a new evaluation of the campus to further improve safety.
The walk was attended by the following:
Ryan Merrill: Director of Strategic Communications and Media Relations
Kimberly Scott: Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs
Kevin Hamilton: Associate Vice Chancellor/ Dean of Student Belonging Student Affairs
Heather Quire: Associate Vice Chancellor/Dean of Campus Life Student Affairs
Ashley Ruderman-Looff: Assistant Director for Advocacy and Education Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality
Efe Oboh-Idahosa: Student Government
Thomas Boone: Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs – Academic Affairs/Provost
Michael Reynolds: Lieutenant of University Police Department
Juli Parker: Assistant Dean of Students/Director for Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality
David Gingerella: Vice Chancellor for Administration & Facilities
James Jerue: Associate Vice Chancellor Facilities Management
John Souza: Deputy Chief of University Police
Sean Kennedy: Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Safety
Moise Saint-Louis: Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs/Director Frederick Douglass Unity House
Ryan Beemer: Assistant Professor Civil & Environmental Engineering
Shelly Scott: Associate Dean of Students
Kevin McGinnis: Resident Director – Housing Representative
David Godinho: IBPO E Board Rep – University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Police
Amanda Mullaly: Police Officer/Crime Prevention
And, of course, me: Shailyn Bacchiocchi – UMass Dartmouth Torch
The walk was mainly led by Sean Kennedy – The Associate VC for Public Safety. Starting at Foster, he introduced CPTED and led us around as he talked about what may need to be implemented on campus for better safety.
His full reports should be available soon, and when it becomes available, I will hopefully be able to go over them in more detail.
For now, I will talk about my experience on the walk and what was best understood by me regarding the changes being made.
Again, starting out at Foster, he began to note that CPTED was implemented to make the campus a safer place by evaluating environmental design.
He stressed the importance of safety because when people feel unsafe, they no longer feel a part of the community they are supposed to be a part of. In this case, students should feel safe on campus to feel a part of the UMass Dartmouth community.
David Gingerella points out the LED lights that are already being implemented on campus, and Mr. Kennedy explains not only do LEDs look better, but they are recommended by CPTED.
As we move toward the front of the campus center, we notice there are lights out underneath the pathway from the Campus Center to LARTS. We also notice how the yellow lights on the pathways are too low and not effective enough to illuminate the area around them.
Efe Oboh-Idahosa asks if the small lights are going to be replaced, and David Gingerella says they are working on adding a pole in between every other light with a brighter light. Soon, they are hoping to replace all the yellow lights with brighter, white LED lights.
As we stand near LARTS, we also look around to see if we can locate the nearest Blue lights. Administration comments on the lack and how far we are from the nearest one. Some even joke about having to sprint to reach one.
The Blue Lights on campus are meant for emergencies, but there is a severe lack of them on campus.
Mr. Kennedy notes that they are working on implementing more and says that the recommendation is to have a Blue Light in eyesight in every part of campus. He also suggests that each Blue Light should have a map of where every other Blue Light is on campus.
This was just the beginning of a long night of darkness on the UMassD campus.
The sun started to set as we made our way to the side of LARTS, noticing that not only is it hard to see far in front of you, but the brutalist architecture makes it almost impossible to see behind the seating areas outside of LARTS.
Walking up the pathways, it would be almost impossible to see if anyone was seated in those areas or crouching behind them.
Ryan Beemer notes that the pathways are also too close to the seating areas, making it dangerous for students, on top of the darkness and stairs, to be aware of their surroundings and make sure there is no one crouching behind anything.
As we move toward the back of LARTS, a lot of the administration starts to make note of how eerie it is to be walking at night through that part of campus. After reaching the end of LARTS, we move toward the front of campus, stopping to notice the darkness around us.
I, on the other hand, am watching everyone else take in the darkness. Because, of course, students have to notice the darkness every night on campus.
I find it hard to be surprised like the other people around me because, for four years, this is what I experienced.
We move toward the front of campus, and Mr. Kennedy stops us. He points out the bus stop at the front of campus and asks, “What is that?”
“A bus stop,” people murmur.
“Do you see any lights on it?” he asks.
People shake their heads.
“Why would somebody in their right mind want to sit there and wait without any light? This is what we are talking about. You don’t know who’s coming toward you, behind you, nothing. These are the things we need to look at.” he stresses.
We notice the Blue Light that is in between the entrance and exit to Ring Road.
Ryan Beemer points out there is no crosswalk. Therefore, students, or anyone needing it, would need to run across three lanes of traffic to reach it in an emergency.
Mr. Kennedy takes note of that.
Chief Souza makes note that there is a lack of cameras on campus, and they are working on adding about 100 cameras to campus, including some to the entrance to capture license plates.
We continue our way back to the other side of LARTS, the side that faces Lots 2,3, and 4.
We, again, point out how hard it is to see with no lights and how the sidewalks were broken up, making it hazardous for students when they walk.
We started to head toward the sophomore dorms, and Mr. Kennedy explained some further safety measures that should be implemented.
One of them is either having reflective paint or reflective signs where the crosswalks are.
The crosswalks, as we noticed in the darkness, are hard for students and cars to see.
Ryan Beemer pointed out that the crosswalk leading towards Oak Glen on the right side of the building was too long and at a bad angle, making it dangerous for students to cross in the darkness where cars can’t see them.
The parking lots and the pathways around the sophomore dorms were encapsulated by darkness and made walking around dangerous, even in a large group.
This was further proven by the multiple cars that had to stop short while we were walking around because they did not see us in time.
We walked toward the front of the police station, and our group stood on the edge of Ring Road while Sean continued to talk about the need for improvement.
As we stood there, I started to notice just how close cars are passing next to us, as there is no sidewalk on ring road.
I asked Mr. Kennedy if that is something that is listed as a concern, as most students do not have a police escort protecting them from passing cars.
David Gingerella explains they are working with the Town of Dartmouth to talk about implementing sidewalks all around Ring Road.
We hopped on the shuttle and made our way around the sophomore dorms to parking lots 18,19 20. Stopping at Lot 20, we got out and walked through the three lots. In Lot 19, there were around four lights out.
We notice that even in the lots that have a full set of working lights, there is still too much darkness.
Therefore, four lights being out was extremely hazardous.
Mr. Kennedy explains that something else he suggests is having numbers on the lights. That way, people can call to report when lights are out.
He also noted that the parking lots and signs in general around campus should be more clearly labeled and visible. In case of an emergency, people should be able to know exactly where they are at all times.
We also took note that, yet again, there was no light on the shuttle stop.
As we ended our tour around campus, Mr. Kennedy lets us know the importance of reporting safety issues that we see to facilities or to the police department.
So, what do I think?
I think walks like this are beneficial for the administration and faculty, who do not have to regularly walk around campus in these unsafe conditions.
Students consistently bring up these problems at Shake The Ship and other forums, yet no words can truly describe the brutal reality of how unsafe it is to walk around at night.
Many of the people on the walk seemed surprised by the problems being pointed out.
For me, it was jarring to think that a lot of the people in charge of safety on campus do not have to deal with the repercussions of unfixed issues.
I honestly think because of the large number of people and the accompaniment of the police, this walk was the only time I felt somewhat at ease moving through campus at night.
On one hand, I had to appreciate the walk as it was pointing out major issues and letting administration experience the issues rather than just hear them.
On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of annoyance knowing students don’t just do this walk once; they do it every time they’re out at night on campus. They sit at unlit shuttle stops, walk across unseen crosswalks, and venture into dimly lit areas.
Do I think everything can be solved at a fast pace? No.
Do I think some of these issues have been prevalent for years and should have been expanded on a lot sooner? Yes.
Again, though everything cannot be fixed in one day, I believe progress should be noted to students and faculty regularly.
I also believe that walks like this should be mandatory for administration yearly.
Hopefully, this walk will kickstart further push for better safety implemented on campus, as well as open some eyes to the experience students have daily on campus.