It is a little easier to see when walking along the north side of Zimmerman Library these days. The landscaped area at the northwest corner of the building is no longer the dark forest because a group of ASUNM students acquired $225,000 in funding from the New Mexico Legislature to upgrade and install new lighting across the UNM campus.

Every fall and spring students, staff, and faculty participate in the Campus Safety Walk, hosted by the Dean of Students Office and the Health Sciences Center. They walk the main and north campuses during the evening hours to look for potential hazards for nighttime pedestrians. Physical Plant Department (PPD) is present at these walks, so they are able to determine any problem areas where additional lighting is needed to better protect evening pedestrians from trips and falls, vandalism and potential crime. 

In the fall of 2010, Cassandra Thompson, candidate for the ASUNM senate race, attended the Campus Safety Walk, along with the ASUNM president and vice president at the time. They felt that improved lighting was needed in many different areas of the campus. 

“When you are walking the campus at night, it’s dark and it’s not the safest thing to do,” Thompson said.

Willie West, manager for PPD Grounds and Landscaping, attends every safety walk to see the campus at night and gain feedback from other walkers. “Participating in the safety walks allows us to see our landscaping features at night from a different perspective, and enables us to improve the safety of our campus even more,” West said.

The ASUNM Executive Branch organized their plan, consulting with PPD and the Office of Government and Community Relations, to go to the New Mexico Legislature during the 2011 legislative session to ask for funding to upgrade and install new lighting across the campus.  The students were successful in receiving $100,000 for lighting projects from the legislature for the 2012 fiscal year. 

“The legislature is really interested in helping students, especially when it involves their safety.  They really followed through and we are really grateful,” Thompson said.

This funding enabled PPD to design and install upgraded lighting to the exterior areas of Zimmerman Library, Ortega Hall, and the Humanities building.  All of the lighting was fitted with high efficiency LED lamps, which will ultimately save the university money.

“These LED lights provide a more uniform distribution of light, and can be directed where we want the light to go. They help eliminate dark spots,” Billy Hromas, manager of PPD Maintenance and Operations said, adding, “They also have an extremely low, or even zero, cost for maintenance. The lamps should last 100,000 hours.”

The PPD Engineering and Energy Services division designed each of these lighting projects. Over the course of 2012 and 2013, many areas of the campus have been improved. 

“Students will now have better lighting for their evening strolls after class, especially on the north side of Zimmerman Library,” PPD Facilities Engineer David Penasa said. 

The same ASUNM students went back to the legislature during the 2012 session to request additional funding. The legislature awarded $125,000 for the 2013 fiscal year. This funding will be used for upgrading lighting in the T parking lot located on Lomas and University, the exterior of Popejoy Hall, walkways at Hokona Hall, and the perimeter of the former Lower Johnson Field area.

Thompson, former ASUNM senator and former ASUNM chief of staff, graduated this month with a degree in Political Science. She enjoyed her experiences at UNM.  “Working with the New Mexico Legislature, ASUNM and the Physical Plant Department was a fantastic experience. I am happy to know that they all support students and their safety on campus.”