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Students To Again Lobby Borough Council For Increased Lighting Downtown

The University Park Undergraduate Association last urged State College Borough Council to approve the installation of additional street lights in the Highlands neighborhood in 2015. If you’ve been to the Highlands (read: fratland) recently, you’ll notice the initiative was never approved based on, well, how dark it is at night.

Since that time, the topic of increasing lighting has been a hotly-debated issue that UPUA’s borough liaisons have continuously worked toward making a reality.

“A lot of people have worked on getting [lighting downtown], but the biggest issue that they’ve had is that it’s just kind of like a non-starter sometimes with some of the Borough,” said Tom Dougherty, UPUA’s current Borough liaison.

The argument over increasing lighting downtown even inspired the name for BugPAC, a political action committee that supported “student-friendly” candidates in the 2017 municipal election, after Borough Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said students would “coalesce like bugs” around additional lighting.

One of the main concerns over increased lighting in the Highlands voiced by residents and Borough Council members is light pollution. In response to this, Dougherty proposed the idea of installing street lights with cones at the top. The cones would shine the light from the bulbs downward instead of out into the windows of houses, thereby cutting down on the amount of light pollution.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the idea was shot down. Dougherty realized one of the only ways to counteract the Borough’s resistance would be to approach the issue from a more student-centered perspective.

“I decided to look at what I was hearing on fraternity row,” he said. “A lot of students go out there for socials and stuff, and a lot of these back entrances of fraternities were not lit well — especially around the alleyways in between Fraternity Row and Foster. The biggest thing I said is, ‘Why don’t we reach out to fraternities?'”

After careful investigation, Dougherty discovered all of the fraternities and houses in the area are powered by the same electrical company — West Penn Power. West Penn Power offered to install the lamp posts for free, so long as community members paid an extra $15 fee each month to power the lights.

So, Dougherty reached out to the fraternities for support. The new idea he’s proposing is to get all of the fraternities living in-house to pay for the extra fee and make the Highlands a more well-lit and safe place to be.

“The idea is that we can, as a student body, do something ourselves to increase the safety of our own students,” Dougherty said. “I hope the Borough will see this and I hope they’ll see the safety benefits.”

Dougherty has already reached out to the IFC vice president for community relations, Evan Vanyo, and his proposal has been met with great support.

In order for the fraternities to approve the fee increase, each house manager (the person in charge of making sure all in-house residents pay rent) must get in contact with their house’s landlord. The landlord needs to approve the house’s request to take on the increase in fees, but after that, the proposal is approved — on the fraternity’s end, of course.

The last obstacle to tackle is gaining the Borough Council’s support for the new installations, a task which has proven difficult in the past.

Dougherty’s goal is to get the Borough to approve the installation of more lights downtown by the end of the semester. He hopes that, through his engagement of the student perspective and the IFC backing, he’ll finally gain Borough Council’s approval.

“Hopefully we’ll see more people seeing light as a way to make our community safer for everybody — not just students, but anyone who brings their family here,” Dougherty said.

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About the Author

Emma Dieter

Emma is a junior from the ever popular "right-outside" Philly area studying labor employment relations and PR. She's also the Assistant Student Life editor for Onward State. She has been a Penn Stater from cradle and will continue to bleed blue and white, 'til grave. She loves trashy romance novels, watching Netflix, and crying over cute videos of dogs. If you ever want to talk more with her about how great she is, or simply have other inquiries, feel free to email her at [email protected]

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