By: Erin Smallwood
Published: January 8, 2009
Poor lighting and lack of communication have had students and teachers in Building 1 concerned about their safety for several years now.
“My faculty has voiced concerns to me about safety issues in the building when they teach evening classes since I came here in 2000,” said Department head Wanda Cook.
There are considerable differences between building 1 and every other building on the Pensacola campus. The primary difference is that the majority of the classrooms are not hallway accessible; they are accessed directly from the outside.
With only a single light hanging above each door, Math professor Jo Spencer, as well as other building 1 teachers, agree that the area surrounding the building gives off an eerie vibe after the sun goes down.
“I teach a class at night and feel uncomfortable in the open areas going back to the main corridor of offices,” Spencer said.
Teachers, however, are not the only people concerned about deficient lighting.
“I always had a ride drop me off in front of my classroom because you couldn’t tell if there was someone waiting around the corner or in a bathroom,” said former building 1 student Vy Nguyen.
Campus administration has made attempts to alleviate teacher and student concerns by trimming back overgrown shrubbery and offering escorts.
“We have a few regular instructors and occasionally a student who request our services. Students either don‘t know about it or think escorting is an inconvenience to us. It‘s not, in fact we relish in it,” said PJC police sergeant Al Alston.
Cries for better communication, however, can still be heard echoing throughout the building. “The layout is more concerning than the lighting,” said police chief Nancy Newland.
Should a riot or other crisis break out, the staff has no way of communicating distress, as the classrooms and offices are not equipped with intercoms.
Last spring a safety meeting attended by several teachers and PJC police addressed a number of outstanding safety issues concerning building 1.
The implication of a text message alert system was discussed. If put into effect, students would receive warnings and alerts through cell phones and other mobile devices should an emergency occur on campus.
“We need multiple systems that offer layers of protection. Other universities have had success with this system,” Newland said.
With security becoming a more prevalent issue across the campus, teachers are optimistic that a positive change is just around the corner.
“I believe the Public Safety and Maintenance crews have a plan for a big job with limited resources,” said Department head Vicki Schell.
For now, Newland and Alston encourage everyone to assume responsibility for their own safety as well as make better choices about safety.