Possible increase in on-campus lighting to be decided by end of summer

Mikaela Cannizzo

In response to a rise in complaints of inadequate lighting following a homicide on campus last month, University officials may increase the number of lights on campus. 

Bob Harkins, associate vice president of Campus Safety and Security, said the Texas Department of Public Safety is currently assessing the efficiency and amount of lights on campus. He said while the University maintains a consistent standard of lighting across campus, factors such as vegetation and remoteness affect the perception of how well lit an area is.

“Lighting is one factor that we use, but there’s also a lot of other considerations that we are looking at with DPS to ensure that people feel safe moving around the campus,” Harkins said.

DPS plans to complete the review by the end of August, and Harkins said Campus Safety and Security will discuss where additional lighting is needed with the department after their assessment is complete.

Juan Ontiveros, associate vice president of Utilities and Energy Management, said the University follows certain recommended lighting standards.

“The lighting is scattered throughout all of the walkways, parking lots and area ways on campus, which consists of about 2,000 street and area light poles,” Ontiveros said in an email.

Harkins said streets, buildings and gathering places such as Gregory Plaza are some of the prime locations for lighting because of high concentrations of people in these areas. He said most lights are activated when it starts to get dark outside by a photocell that senses the lack of light, and no switch is needed.

The time of year is an additional concern for implementing lights on campus, Harkins said. Leaves falling to the ground from the trees during the fall months can possibly create a brighter environment compared to spring months, when leaves and vegetation block the lights.

“It’s something that you’re constantly chasing,” Harkins said. “We don’t want to trim all the trees, but at the same time, we try to adjust the foliage on the trees to make certain we get the maximum amount of lighting that we can.”

Studio art junior Nicole Dodillet said she does not believe there is an adequate amount of lights on campus and thinks more should be added near the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, the Fine Arts area, the George I. Sanchez building, the Blanton Museum of Art and behind the Tower.

“Lighting for me means that should anything happen, there is a greater chance of someone else seeing the problem and being able to help or get assistance,” Dodillet said.

Harkins said finding a balance between the amount of lights and perception of how bright an area is can be a challenge.

“The lighting itself doesn’t make anybody safer, but it makes you feel safer and more comfortable,” Harkins said.

In order to make the best use of the lighting that is currently available on campus, Harkins said he encourages students to walk on well-lit and commonly traveled pathways in groups.