The tension was palpable as UMW Chief of Police Eddie Perry reached out to test the campus’s blue light system in front of Trinkle Hall Tuesday night during the Safety Walk.
When campus police responded immediately to the test call and correctly identified Perry’s location, the group of top-level administrators huddled around the blue light—including President Rick Hurley and Chief of Staff Martin Wilder—breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Two years ago, the police failed to identify the location of the test caller during the Safety Walk, and last year, when former President Judy Hample tested the blue light system by impersonating a harassed student, police took six minutes to arrive at the location.
In comparison, this semester’s Safety Walk was relatively uneventful.
According to President Hurley, this semester’s walk was also one of the shortest he has participated in during his tenure at UMW.
“I think that the brevity of this year’s walk indicated that there have been definite improvements recently,” Hurley said. “This year, I could probably have counted the number of burned-out bulbs on one hand.”
Hurley attributed the success of this semester’s Safety Walk to the $250,000 the school has spent in recent years on public safety improvements like additional lighting and blue light phones.
Senior Emily Wampler, SGA chairperson for Buildings and Grounds, echoed this sentiment, drawing attention to the administration’s installation of several new lights and blue light phones along Sunken Avenue after student concerns about that area were raised during a Safety Walk last spring.
“There were no concerns about lighting on Sunken Road this year,” Wampler pointed out.
However, lighting issues in other areas of campus still dominated the discussion during the 45-minute walk, in which Wampler brought student safety concerns she compiled over the past several months to the administration’s attention. The SGA holds a Safety Walk each semester.
Other student concerns raised during this semester’s walk included the narrow and uneven sidewalk alongside College Avenue, the lack of paving on Marshall Drive, and a variety of issues surrounding the outdoor amphitheatre, including lighting, the pillars that recently fell on two local residents, and the lack of handicap access.
Acting Vice President for Administration and Finance Rick Pearce said the administration is holding off on plans for the amphitheatre until the Department of Historic Preservation finishes their evaluation of the site’s future.
In the meantime, Associate Vice-President for Public Safety and Community Services Susan Knick urged students to be cautious around all the construction areas on campus that are currently roped off.
“Students need to respect the construction zones,” Knick said. “If there’s a caution rope up, they really shouldn’t be trying to access that area.”
Senior Christina Lloyd, who attended the Safety Walk, feels that the walks have had a noticeably positive effect on campus safety.
“Most of the stuff that was pointed out this year was just minor stuff, like lights being out,” Lloyd said. “They’ve fixed a lot of things over the last few years. I feel pretty safe on campus.”