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The Blue & Gray Press | December 15, 2017

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Students List Safety Issues

By Justin Toney

Last semester, two men in an unmarked car approached sophomore Ashley Davis while she was walking back from the Battlegrounds parking lot. The men, claiming to be Mary Washington Police, began questioning Davis who ignored the impersonators as she continued to campus.
Davis is one of many students who have complained about instances of harassment on the stretch of College Avenue that students frequent to and from their cars in the Battlegrounds.
This prompted senior Catherine Dexter, chair of the legislation and administration committee in the Student Senate, to spearhead a walk for safety last Tuesday similar to those held in the past.
“We get all these motions in the senate about safety, and this is a great way to show these concerns to administrators,” Dexter said.
Senate members led Dean of Students Bernie Chirico and Director of Environmental Health and Safety Ruth Lovelace on a tour of reportedly problematic locations on and around campus.
Senior Trevor Daubenspeck, who organized the senate’s safety walk last year, said that nothing was done in the past about students who had been harassed by vagrants or others walking to and from the Battlegrounds.
“Probably about 90 percent of the things we talked about last year were never done,” Daubenspeck said.
“I wish we could make all that go away, but we can’t,” Lovelace said.
According to Lovelace, attempts to add a blue light emergency phone and extra light posts along the street have failed.
“We can’t fix something that’s only going to effect one or two people,” Lovelace said, “We need to make sure we’re doing things that are going to help with the big picture.”
Chirico told the group of seven students that he would look into possible new options for placing an emergency phone on College Avenue, despite prior failures.
Lovelace said that Fredericksburg officials had previously shot down her request for more streetlights along Sunken Road between Monroe Street and the front lawn of Russell Hall.
Residents of the neighborhood across the road from UMW have complained in the past about existing streetlights, and were responsible for the continued lack of lighting in the area, Lovelace said.
She went on to mention that the blue light emergency phone located in that area was the result of a safety walk conducted in years past.
By 8 p.m., the group stopped to note the area’s low visibility even with persisting twilight. SGA Vice President Jacqui Newman spoke from experience about the spot.
“Another hour from now, I wouldn’t be able to see my hand in front of my face,” Newman said.
Dexter added a suggestion to install ground-level lamps along the sidewalk to her list of possible solutions for the issues discussed.  She plans to have the list approved by the Student Senate and then present it to the administration.
Prospective solutions include further promoting and expanding the Student Escort Service in order to provide a regularly scheduled, more easily accessible shuttle between campus and the Sunken Road/Battlegrounds parking lots.
In addition to the changes in the Escort Service, the list suggests changing the commuter parking on William Street and College Avenue. into residential parking, while making the Battlegrounds a commuter lot.
The list will place the most importance upon its suggestion for more lights and blue light emergency phones on College Avenue. and Sunken Road to improve visibility.
“The UMW campus is sometimes confused with Shannon Airport because of all the blue lights,” Lovelace said.
Next year, Lovelace wants to host two safety walks that would also include a trip so that students can compare the security of UMW to other campuses.