Crosswalks, lighting addressed at third annual Campus Safety Walk

A+group+of+students+participate+in+the+Safety+Walk+with+Officer+Wyatt+Pulver+on+Oct.+8+at+the+Food+Truck+Plaza+on+Wichita+State%27s+main+campus.+The+group+was+given+a+section+of+Wichita+State%27s+main+campus+to+walk+and+discuss+safety+concerns+which+may+require+improvement.

Easton Thompson

A group of students participate in the Safety Walk with Officer Wyatt Pulver on Oct. 8 at the Food Truck Plaza on Wichita State's main campus. The group was given a section of Wichita State's main campus to walk and discuss safety concerns which may require improvement.

About a dozen students and university police officers surveyed Wichita State’s main campus Tuesday night at the annual Campus Safety Walk.

This year’s walk focused on crosswalks and underlit areas around campus. 

“The main purpose of the safety walk is to get students’ perspectives on what they think is dangerous, or what they would feel safer with,” said Crystal Zacarias, chair of the SGA Safety and Student Services Committee.

Four groups, each including an officer and a member of SGA, split up to cover the entire campus. Half of the groups covered center campus on foot, while the other half surveyed parking lots and the outskirts of campus from a golf cart and ATV. 

Students noted a number of areas that are underlit at night, due to either burnt out bulbs or a lack of lighting overall. 

The parking lot at Eck Stadium has a large block of lights out, though it’s unclear whether they may have been shut off for construction Tuesday night. Students suggested adding temporary lighting where there are known outages. 

A staircase leading down to the first floor of Clinton Hall was also noted to be dangerously dark at night. 

This is the third year the Campus Safety Walk has been held. The first was held in 2015, after SGA passed a bill to promote safety around campus. 

Last year’s walk, held the first week of November, spurred SGA to pass five resolutions tied to safety concerns brought up by students. 

“Last year there was a concern that over by the baseball field, it was not the best, most well lit-up area, and so now the police have a car parked over there at night, permanently,” Zacarias said. 

The stretch of sidewalk between the Heskett Center and the tennis courts also received new lighting by the end of the fall 2018 semester, after students said it was too dark at night. 

Committee wants more crosswalks

This year, the Safety and Student Services Committee is already working on implementing more crosswalks around campus, and Zacarias said she hopes information from Tuesday’s walk will help with the initiative. 

The committee is looking at adding a lighted crosswalk across from the 21st Street entrance to decrease congestion in the mornings.

“It’s really crowded because the cars get all backed up due to the crosswalks, so my committee was thinking about implementing a stoplight there,” Zacarias said. “That would be really hard because we don’t have any stop lights on campus currently, and that’s a precedent we would have to set.”

University Police Chief Rodney Clark said pedestrian safety is a main concern, particularly when students are parking off campus and crossing the street. 

“We have had people hit on the campus before with vehicles,” Clark said. “It can happen. People tend to think, ‘Well, it’s only 20 miles an hour on campus,’ but if you hit somebody in a car at 20 miles an hour, it can do some damage.”

Clark’s comments came a day before a student was hospitalized in critical condition after a hit-and-run near campus. The student was not using a crosswalk, according to Wichita police. 

Earlier this semester, a student was hit by a vehicle in August while using a crosswalk near the parking garage, but she declined medical attention. 

Zacarias said the safety committee will have to work with the city of Wichita to get crosswalks installed at the 21st Street location, and possibly at 17th and Harvard. 

The rest of the issues brought up at the walk, however, will be presented to the WSU Facilities and Planning department. From there, facilities, WSUPD and SGA will work together to decide what’s feasible and what changes need to be made.