Remember the part in a horror film when the main character is walking alone at night, and the audience is just waiting for something bad to happen? That’s what it feels like walking around the main campus of California Lutheran University at night. Cal Lutheran’s campus is too dark at night and it needs more light to ensure the safety of students and faculty who frequent the campus after dark.
A 2012 article “Staying safe on campus” from the New York Times Education Life section details dangers that college students face, including walking on campus at night. Reporter Aimee Lee Ball cited Gary J. Margolis of The Ohio State University, who said that there is a lot of fear with technology making access to information so easy.
“You can be safe but not feel safe, and you can feel safe but not be safe,” Margolis said. “Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be the victim of a crime in the dorm by people you know than to get mugged walking across the green.”
Indeed, Thousand Oaks is a presumably safe city. In the 2012 census, Thousand Oaks was ranked the fourth safest city with 100,000 residents in the United States. In spring of 2016 the Echo reported in the article “Violent Crimes in Thousand Oaks area at an all time low” that burglaries in Thousand Oaks were down 45 percent.
These designations are great, however the fact that Thousand Oaks is a safe area does not excuse our campus from being well-lit enough at night. We cannot simply rely on the fact that Thousand Oaks and Cal Lutheran are “safe” and leave the rest to chance. If we are in fact located in such a safe city, then why not take every precaution to stay that way- starting with increased campus lighting?
Even the Campus Safety policies page on the Cal Lutheran website cautions people to stay vigilant in a designated safe city.
“Thousand Oaks is one of the safest cities in the country, but that doesn’t mean crimes never occur here. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because of the peaceful surroundings,” the Campus Safety website said.
All it takes is one or two lampposts to burn out, and suddenly the back parking lot of Grace Hall is pitch-black. The walkways on the side and behind the Pearson Library are notoriously dark. This is not simply a facilities problem, as I am sure they have larger issues to handle, but rather it is an issue of needing more lights around campus in general.
Linda Parks, a Ventura County supervisor and board member of the Save Open Spaces and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) initiative, said that there are steps that can be taken to limit light pollution while still illuminating areas at night.
“Motion detecting lights, so they only come on when people are there,” Parks said. “So you don’t have that light shining all night long you can have just when people are there and are needing light.”
Parks also suggested other sources of light that do not contribute as much light pollution such as downward facing street lamps and bollards which are four to five foot posts with lights on them to illuminate pathways, Parks said.
The addition of motion detection lights as well as lining more pathways to major parts of campus would be a significant way that the campus could be better lit at night without significantly increasing light pollution.
“I think it’s a balance and that balance includes making sure that we have enough lighting to feel secure at night in an urban area,” Parks said. “But also realizing where we live and our residential areas, and certainly in natural open space there isn’t as much of a demand for lighting at night.”
So while yes, you could walk with a buddy at night, or carry pepper spray and a flashlight, or call campus safety for a ride, this is not always realistic, nor should it be. I should not have to wear a headlamp carrying a bucket of pepper spray in my hand to feel safe enough to walk to the library alone at night.
While you should go with a buddy to walk or run at night and campus safety does offer rides for students, sometimes the reality is that you have to go it alone. And as you walk out of the library, gym, car or class into the night, ask yourself: are you afraid of the dark?