Fear of the dark, a reality for students

“Text me so I pick you up. I don’t want you walking back to your dorm alone.” I heard this conversation from a couple of girls as I was walking to my car by the flagpole. While searching for my keys I thought to myself “What could be so scary about walking from the gym to Tuscany or Beaujolais?” Maybe she’s just lazy. I’ve made that walk before and it’s not the worst. I shortly realized her fear was probably not because of the far walk or the ache from leg day at the gym but of what has happened in the last few weeks.
      The Santa Rosa Junior College was recently the location of a violent rape in the middle of campus. The female victim was raped in the bathroom of Barnett Hall at about 9 p.m. by a masked man who pushed her in the restroom and assaulted her. He is still at large. Reading this news made me wonder about how prepared Sonoma State University is. We’re just a stone’s throw away from the junior college.
Barnett Hall in the SRJC is in the middle of campus. It wasn’t a section of campus that was hidden or that there wasn’t much traffic. Joseph Cox, a sophomore who attends the SRJC campus about Barnett Hall’s condition and especially at night. “There’s really no lights there, I had a class there last semester and it’s not lit up really. Honestly, it looks like the place a rape would happen,” said Cox.
      I decided to check out the school website to see what we have prepared for sexual assaults and I saw many good helpful resources listed. Helpful Tips include “ Be aware of your surroundings, avoid isolated areas, avoid putting music headphones in both ears, and walk with purpose”  What if the girl at JC was following these steps? There’s only so much a person can do against an attacker. Is the college at fault for not having lights shine throughout?
      Luckily at Sonoma State we have emergency phones sprinkled around campus and we can call for escorts at any time we feel unsafe to walk somewhere. But is that enough?
The United States Department of Justice reported “One in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime and 43 percent of rapes occur between 6:00 p.m. and midnight.”
      Reading these statistics is very alarming. If these attacks happen at night then lights brightening up the campus should be everywhere. I went out to go see how the Art Building looks like at night. Joseph Cox and Audrina Sablan, a senior, came along to compare Barnett to the Art Building.
      At first sight we noticed that there is only one emergency phone on the side closest to campus. Meaning if you aren’t on the path and you are attacked or need help, you need to get on the path by Carson to press the button. Most of the other departments have more than one emergency phone and most are actually next to the building. As we parked, we saw that there is a sign saying the Copeland Creek Path is closed from dusk to dawn which wasn’t there last year.
      That path next to the building was completely unlit. We crossed paths with two students who were only visible because we were face to face with them. If there had been lights on that pathway we could’ve seen them ahead of time. Kristelle Pliez, a senior who sometimes works during finals at the Art Building till 3 a.m. by herself sees the lack of lighting and the only addition of the sign to be a lack of negligence by SSU “We (students) see this as a statement from the university saying that if you walk on that path after dark, it is your fault if you get attacked by someone who should not be occupying that space, and the school is not liable for your injury. It was very upsetting that the school is not willing to light that part of the path. Not only is there an entire department back there that stays unlit at night, it’s also a common path for students to use going to and from the GMC parking lot. It’s still just as unsafe as it was before with or without the sign,” said Pliez.
      We walked around a bit more and saw some dark areas inside the studio that were unlit or not bright enough just like the ones at Barnett Hall were. While we were in the parking lot I never saw a police officer car roam the area at all not even the parking lot.
      SSU has great precautions for sexual assault and rape such as the emergency phones and many courses to educate its students. But there is a lot of room for improvement. A street lamp costs about $7000 or less including man hours according to PG&E. I’m sure SSU can find a way to get the costs to be lower. There simply isn’t an excuse.  Do we have to wait to fix things after we become the headline? Because I’m sure the ever changing colorful lights of the Green Music Center are not enough to light up the whole campus.