Written by Allison Kuo
To President Schrum and the members of the Southwestern campus community,
As an alumna of the school and a friend of Rob Atkinson’s, I was deeply saddened by his passing. While this seems to have been a tragic accident, I think it should be recognized that Rob’s death was not an isolated incident. Last year, Nick Peña was struck and badly injured by a car while trying to cross Maple Street adjacent to campus and University Avenue. Nick was not the first student to be hit by a car while trying to cross the street onto or away from campus either. This is a problem that we have known about for years and clearly it is past time to address it.
First of all, there is the problem of inadequate lighting at these spots where many students cross the street to get to their homes and the homes of their friends. There is not enough visibility at night to protect pedestrians. We have seen the evidence of this. Secondly, the flow of traffic on University Avenue is such that it is difficult and often dangerous to cross the street at anytime. Whether or not it is safe for them to do so, many students will continue to cross the street at their convenience rather than walk five or ten minutes out of their way to cross at Maple Street. Perhaps it is time to install a traffic light near the Southwest edge of campus. A traffic light in that location would make driving much safer for those coming and going from the Fine Arts Center and the many other facilities that are accessed by that side of campus, and it would enforce the protection of a much needed crosswalk. At the very least, a well-lit crosswalk along with a reduced speed limit would draw attention to drivers that there are many pedestrians in the area. Finally, Southwestern students need to be informed of the dangers of crossing the streets around campus. As safe (albeit questionably) as it seems to walk around within campus where most drivers are aware of those on foot and on bicycles, it can lull students into an attitude of complacency where they may not see dangers for what they are. Perhaps this information should become a part of new student orientation and of the general knowledge that RAs pass on to their first years.
Southwestern is a part of a rapidly growing city, a city that has been at times reluctant to acknowledge the thriving university in its midst. If the city of Georgetown is not readily willing to address the safety needs of the university, then perhaps the burden falls on the university to make clear to the city how important this issue is to us. There are hundreds upon hundreds of people who travel to and from campus everyday to attend classes, to teach and to work. We as a community need to advocate for the safety of these people.
Alison Kuo, Class of 2008