Throughout last semester and into the first week of February, lights on the campus path running through the woods by Queen Anne Residence Hall have been repeatedly vandalized. On numerous separate occasions the wires connecting the light to the power source have been cut or pulled up. Public Safety has been alerted and has taken several steps to prevent the destruction from continuing.
The lights come on at night, allowing for better visibility as students walk through the woods, either towards the campus center and Queen Anne Residence Hall, or back towards North Campus. The lights illuminate the already uneven and worn path, which presents a safety hazard in terms of tripping and falling. In addition, the path through the woods is ominous for many students, and in particular female students given the concerns about sexual assault on this campus, even when the lights are functioning.
The Point News reached out to SGA president Andrew Messick (‘19) to get a better understanding of the situation. He explained that the issue was first reported to SGA during a Student Speakout last semester, upon which he took steps to address the issue, hoping to get a quick fix. Messick stated that when he spoke with Annie Angueira, Director of Physical Plant, and Tressa Setlak, Director of Public Safety, he was told that the vandalism “occurred as fast as Maintenance could make the repairs, which was frequent.” When asked if he thought the vandalism represented a security risk, he explained that any lack of light on a path could be hazardous, stating that “I would say that because this appears to be intentional, it could be a security risk,” also going on to suggest that students utilize the paths with caution, or avoid them completely if the lights appear to be out. Messick praised the quick and helpful responses of both Angueira and Setlak, as well as Maintenance and Grounds staff for consistently working to correct the issue.
After speaking with Setlak, The Point News was able to ascertain that the lights have been vandalized in at least five or six separate occurrences. When asked to respond to rumors about a camera being installed to catch the perpetrator, Setlak acknowledged that a camera had been set up, but no footage had been taken, explaining that “we believe the individual sabotaged the camera.” Setlak affirmed Public Safety’s commitment to addressing the issue and making sure students feel safe. She explained that the College was working with Historic St. Mary’s City and the St. John’s Site, as part of the property is theirs.
Setlak also explained that after multiple sabotages, including the lights being cut and pulled out of the ground, the College hired an outside contractor to install a sturdy conduit to ensure the light cord could not be easily cut. This includes a metal casing to cover the wires, which runs up the side of each tree, preventing further destruction. Setlak did say that a person attempted to vandalize the new conduit, but was not successful.
Setlak agreed that this issue represented a safety concern, stating “We are working with facilities, in our efforts to catch this person.” She went on to explain that Public Safety is looking into more permanent methods of lighting for the path through the woods. Setlak encouraged people to be vigilant, asking that “If anyone sees something, they should say something,” as “whoever’s doing this is in there for a little bit.”
Public Safety asks that if anyone has any information, or witnesses anything related to the light destruction in the woods, they report it at 240-895-4911.