When walking to her West Campus apartment alone at midnight, economics junior Taylor Wissman said it is hard to know someone’s intentions. When she spotted a man sitting in the dark last month, she began to fear for her life.
“This man was sitting on a bench,” Wissman said. “I thought he was going to grab me … It was very dark. I didn’t see the man until I was close.”
In response to incidents like this, marketing sophomore Chloe Baker said she created a petition on Change.org, calling for Austin City Council and the University to increase the number of light and police poles in West Campus. In two weeks, the petition exceeded its initial goal of 1,500 and now aims to collect 2,500 signatures, according to the Change.org petition.
Baker said she has never seen a police pole in West Campus. The UT Police Department directed questions about police poles in West Campus to the Austin Police Department, who then directed questions back to UTPD.
“You have people that are vulnerable,” Baker said. “A lot of young adults that walk by themselves late at night in a very urban setting creates a vulnerable area. The lighting is just not up to par as to what it should be to bring about optimal safety.”
Baker said though there are some streets that are well lit, including the major roads like Rio Grande, there are still streets with no light due to broken fixtures.
“It’s the smaller streets like Seton and Nueces where the lights are dimmer, and some of the lights are even out,” Baker said. “There is one street by Ruckus that is probably one of the darkest streets I have ever walked on. It’s so dark, I’m kind of nervous the cars can even see pedestrians.”
The Austin City Council passed a resolution in May 2017 which directed the Austin city manager to complete a lighting study of West Campus and appointed Austin Energy to repair street lighting in West Campus. In an email, Austin Energy spokesperson Jennifer Herber said all fixtures previously identified in last year’s study have been repaired.
“While UT is not in session over the holidays, Austin Energy crews will begin proactive maintenance initiative to identify and repair existing light outrages that have not been reported through 311,” Herber said.