For the last week, the lights have been turned off along the Five-Minute Walk. Accompanied by increasingly earlier dusk as winter draws near, many students have to walk the path between the North Building and the Student Centre in darkness. The path is unavoidable for those with late classes in the least accessible building.
“I finish class in North at eight o’clock. I was about to leave the building to walk to the gym when I noticed the lights were off,” said Sandra Toufeq, a third-year religious studies student. “I practically ran down the path.”
For others, the dark pathway is the quickest route from class to home. Residence students use the path leading from Erindale Hall to Oscar Peterson Hall as a quick and safe route to return to their rooms after class. As of late, the absence of adequate lighting has posed a problem.
“It’s really scary. I was walking back to OPH and I was making a right around the corner at Erindale Hall, which you can’t see around,” said Joyce Tshiama, a second-year student living on residence. “Suddenly a guy came running around the corner! In the dark, it really scared me.”
Campus Police have been active in ensuring that the necessary precautions are taken. They have distributed extra WalkSafer posters to Student Housing and Residence Services and have conducted extra patrols along the path. After the WalkSafer program ends each night at 11:30 p.m., Campus Police offers escort services students in need of assistance.
“It is our priority to keep the UTM community safe,” said Corporal Charles Helewa. “If a student requests to be escorted, we will respond immediately.”
The WalkSafer team receives between one and three requests a night and this has not increased since the lights have been off.
“We’re fortunate that we’re in a safe area of the city, but we understand that it’s a safety issue,” said Len Paris, the manager of Campus Police Services. “We do lighting surveys across campus and then we pass that information on to Facilities.”
Due to numerous construction projects underway on campus, there have been difficulties with the underground electrical wiring. Campus Police submit various work orders to Facilities Management and Planning, the department in charge of the university’s grounds keeping. In particular, Facilities deals with project building consultation that includes electrical work.
The issue has been given priority, but the lights along the path have yet to be fixed. With residence, bus stops, and student parking lots located on different parts of campus, the dark pathway continues to pose a problem for many students.
“Most of my classes in North end late at night,” said Nicole Ferreira, a third-year psychology student. “I have to walk from North to the bus stop and it was really creepy because there was no one around. There are trees all around the path. What if someone jumped out?”
On the other hand, some students aren’t affected by the issue. “I felt fine,” said student Nick Tavano. “It doesn’t make much of a difference to me whether or not the lights are on. It’s a short walk.”
WalkSafer is available Monday to Friday and can be contacted at 905-607-SAFE (7233). After hours, students can request assistance from Campus Police by their emergency line at (905) 569-4333.