The streets surrounding Lehigh University’s campus, like East Fifth Street and Hillside Avenue, are not officially part of campus. However, they are frequented throughout the academic year by underclassmen and upperclassmen alike. These streets are home for some and a place of entertainment for others, but the safety of the community is a concern for all of South Bethlehem.
Lehigh students will show their concern for safety on these off-campus streets Wednesday at 6 p.m. by volunteering to change and install light fixtures on local porches for Student Senate’s Light Up Off Campus event.
Local realtor Louis Intile identified under-lit streets as a threat to safety five years ago and set out to create an event to combat this issue. Teaming up with Lehigh’s Student Senate, Intile launched Light Up Off Campus. The event consists of student volunteer groups, each paired up with a police officer, walking door to door and offering to install light fixtures for local residents. Energy efficient bulbs are used to diminish the cost of keeping the streets lit and thereby incentivize residents to promote a safer environment.
“The safety benefits far outweigh the cost of the light bulbs and electricity,” said Intile, who donates many of the bulbs.
In addition to the safety benefits this event provides, Light Up Off Campus is important for the advancement of positive relations between the university and the city of Bethlehem. In the past, prominent members of the community such as Bethlehem City Council President Willie Reynolds and Lehigh Chief of Police Edward Shupp have volunteered at the event.
“Light Up Off Campus is important because it shows members of the Bethlehem community that Lehigh cares about the well-being of the community,” Student Senate President Anna D’Ginto said. “This event also helps a lot in regard to students and police dissipating miscommunications and forming stronger bonds.”
Local media such as WFMZ and The Morning Call have covered the event and lauded it for its work in showing that students who live off campus are interested in more than just parties and alcohol.
Matt Rothberg, the assistant treasurer for Student Senate, said his main goal for the year is to forge a better relationship between Lehigh and Bethlehem. He said he believes students have a lot to offer to the community, and hopes to showcase that through daily actions and the Light Up Off Campus event.
The majority of the some 40 student volunteers participating in Light Up Off Campus are members of Student Senate. The benefit, however, is for the entire campus, not just those participating.
“Whether students are aware of the event or not, it will make a difference for them,” Rothberg said. “It’s for the community, not to market our organization.”
Safety is one of Student Senate’s main concerns this year, and it has been making an effort to promote awareness on campus. One of the main ways it has done this is through the Safety Committee. This branch of Student Senate aims to continue the discussion between students and police officers about defining the line between safe behavior and the law.
Teaming up with the police force through events like Light Up Off Campus is one of the ways that Senate is attempting to open the discussion with the police force and understand when the police are there to educate or discipline.
“Student Senate is very proud of the Safety Committee,” D’Ginto said. “We are thankful for this opportunity to work towards a more unified community and also for all of LUPD’s support.”
Light Up Off Campus has previously secured the support of both the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council. Student Senate hopes to do the same for this year’s event.
In the past five years, those who have participated in the event have seen notable positive growth in city-campus relationships. Increased visibility on the nighttime streets is a benefit for residents of Bethlehem and Lehigh students alike.
“I’d like to see the continued interaction of students and the community,” Intile said. “It’s important for (the students) to be aware of their surroundings and make the entire area safer for all.”
Though the action of changing porch lights is a simple one, it makes a powerful statement. Similar to the flag memorial that Student Senate arranged for 9/11, where 2,977 American flags were planted on the front lawn, this event is emblematic.
“The porch light is a symbol,” Intile said. “It serves a purpose, but it also stands for this communities desire to promote a safer environment.”