Tennessee Tech is sometimes an extremely insular place for a college campus. Our location, at least an hour away from any major cities, allows many trends and social phenomenon to wash right over us while only affecting a small portion of the student body. Important issues can make their way onto our campus, but usually not until some major event brings them to the general population’s attention. Last semester, Tech was the site of not one but two attempted sexual assaults, a rare event for our city that should motivate us to take assault prevention as seriously as other schools.
Hannah Nash is a junior sociology major and student worker for Tech’s Commission on the Status of Women. She says the Commission has been trying to fix campus lighting issues for years through their Safety Subcommittee’s annual safety reports, but they’ve been passed over or simply ignored. Two of areas referenced in the safety reports, the east stadium parking lot and the lot between the Foundry and Capital Quad, were the sites of last semester’s assaults.
“At the last Commission meeting, Colleen (Hayes) was handing out this year’s and last year’s safety reports to keep us updated on the progress of her subcommittee,” said Nash. “She had a comparison chart to show what was an issue both this year and last year but had not been fixed. I asked how many years they had reported the parking lots and Colleen, Julia (Gruber) and a few others all agreed that it had been on the report for at least 10 years.”
The safety reports don’t just cover lighting; they also point out spots on campus that could be problematic for disabled students, faculty and staff. This can cover anything from walkway obstructions to heavily cracked sidewalks. The reports are sent to Facilities, the Office of the President and other administrative figures. This year, the Commission also plans to send it to the head of each department and the building coordinators.
“This is one of those things I think the administration is happy we’re working on,” said Dr. Hayes. “We’re not just looking out for women, we’re looking out for everyone.”
In their “Campus Sexual Assault: Suggested Policies and Procedures” report, the American Association of University Professors recommends “physical and electronic security measures including improved campus lighting.” Tech’s Commission on the Status of Women identified 33 areas on campus that were unsafe in its 2012 report, most as the result of poor lighting. Of those 33 spots, 16 had been pointed out in previous years.