With the crossing guards gone, students pose questions about safety and traffic on Walnut Avenue

 

The crosswalk at Grand Street and Walnut Avenue is heavily trafficked during the school year. Though the crossing guards were originally brought in as a temporary addition, some students say crossing guards should be placed at this intersection permenantly. Photo by Jack Kirby.

Since early 2016, the crossing guards on Walnut Avenue and Grand Street were a familiar sight for Chapman students. However, at the start of this school year, they were gone.

The guards were hired to compensate for an inaccessible sidewalk on Center Street during the construction of the Keck Center for Science and Engineering, which was completed by fall 2018, Chapman officials said. But students say that two pedestrian accidents and a tendency of motorists to race down Walnut indicate a necessity for permanent placing of crossing guards at the channel from the dorms to main campus.

Chief of Public Safety Randy Burba said he doesn’t think the crossing guards are necessary.

“Crossing guards are basically for grade school kids who don’t follow directions, who don’t know to look for traffic both ways,” he said. “With the safety features in place, and adults being adults, it should be fairly safe.”

Those safety features at Walnut and Grand include hazard lights lining the crosswalk that are activated when buttons on either side of the street are pressed. Prowl found that the lights stay on for about 20 seconds at a time. At Walnut and Center, crosswalks exist at the stoplight.

The crossing guards, who were paid for by the university, initially worked from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, but soon had their hours extended to 6 p.m., according to a blog post from the university.

Two accidents occurred on Walnut close to the dorms in the spring of last school year.

Sydney Green, now a sophomore broadcast journalism major, believes that she may not have been hit by a pickup truck on Walnut had she crossed with the protection of a crossing guard. At around midday in March 2018, she was walking toward the dorms on Center Street, distracted by her phone, when she was grazed by a pickup truck and rolled her ankle.

Green said she was “very shaken up by it” and that she would like the crossing guards to return. 

“They should have crossing guards – that’s a really hard street to cross. It’s not safe to cross because cars come speeding down Walnut,” Green said. “They definitely made it a lot easier and safer to cross the street. I now drive up Walnut and the (students) struggle to cross the street.”

Green said she understands why the university wouldn’t want to pay for the extra labor, but that college students will cross the street where and when they want to.

Sophomore graphic design major Alice Premeau was hit one month later at the Walnut and Grand intersection when she was walking back from Leatherby Libraries at night.

“I distinctly remember thinking the next morning how terrified I was to cross the street again,” Premeau said. “But having the crossing guards there made me feel safer and reassured.”

Premeau suffered bruising to her ribs and minor whiplash. She said the crosswalk lights were on as she entered the street, but turned off before she reached the other side.

Some students also say that traffic on Walnut has increased.

“The traffic is terrible, especially in between classes, because none of the students stop,” said junior public relations and advertising major Saarini Madhava. “It was far better when they had the crossing guards there because they knew how to facilitate traffic.”

High volumes of pedestrians at Walnut and Grand can cause cars to get backed up for blocks, said junior business administration major Taylor Duncker. Photo by Jack Kirby.

“It’s just awful, kids just go whenever they want. People should know how to cross the street, but they don’t,” said graduate student Jake Ummel.

Burba said with two crosswalks open, the volume of people crossing should be more controlled.   

“I think there are some things, yes, that are out of (the students’) span of control, things that we need to do as an institution to build a safety net,” he said.

Students also brought up the camaraderie between dorm dwellers and the crossing guards, and said that the crossing guards made them feel safe.

“Even before the accident happened, I felt a bit better when they were there,” Premeau said.

Green said the guards would say hello and ask how your day was going, and she liked knowing that they cared about the students.

“It was upsetting when I saw the crossing guards not there anymore,” Madhava said. “They were so friendly.”

UPDATE: 4,000 square-foot fitness center coming to Henley Hall, budget of $1 million

The current gym in the Henley Basement has some cardio equipment and machines for strength training. Photo by Sydnee Valdez

After years of dissatisfaction with the Julianne Argyros Fitness Center, the administration has approved a construction plan to renovate the Henley Hall basement into a 4,000 square-foot fitness center, according to Student Government Association (SGA) President Mitchell Rosenberg. 

SGA has been working to expand Chapman’s gym facilities since 2016, Rosenberg stated in an email to the Chapman community on Tuesday. Construction is anticipated to start at the end of May and be completed by fall 2019.  The project budget is $1 million, according to Associate Vice President of Facilities Management Rick Turner.  

Currently, the university has two fitness centers at its Orange campus: the Julianne Argyros Fitness Center and a small gym with limited equipment in Henley Hall. The main fitness center is often crowded, so many students choose to pay for a gym membership to avoid the campus facilities all together, ChapBook Magazine reported last spring.

After its projected completion, the basement will boast two fitness rooms. One will be a spin studio for indoor cycling sessions, and the second will be used as a multipurpose room for things like Zumba, Yoga, and High Intensity Interval Training (HITT), according to the email.

The facility will also include new fitness equipment and an open space for free weights, stretching, and core workouts, as well as a service desk where students can rent out sports equipment.

“Seeing the email got me really excited. I was also kind of sad because I’ll probably be living in (Chapman) Grand next year. I won’t be able to use it as much, but it will be nice for the freshmen next year who will have a bigger gym,” said freshman undeclared student Katie Brown.

Brown, a resident of Glass Hall, admitted to working out more in the Henley Basement because of its close proximity.  Students say the main gym is flawed and overcrowded – SGA has received many complaints about its inadequacies in the past few years, according to ChapBook.

Using student feedback and survey data expressing concern about the current lack of fitness space available causing an overcrowded fitness center, SGA’s proposal for expanded fitness space was accepted by university administration,” Rosenberg stated in his email. “This result was made possible by countless students using their platform to speak up about their concerns.”

While Rosenberg claimed that all students would have access to Henley Fitness Center as well as Julianne Argyros Fitness Center, it is unknown whether faculty members will receive the same privilege.

The gym expansion will not affect the John Biggs Conference Room, Paul Frizler Media Room, the two music practice rooms, laundry room, and Chapman Radio booth. The four billiard tables, however, will be “removed and re-tasked as needed,” according to Turner. 

“We do come to the basement a lot because it is a big hang out space. We also use the media room a lot for hall events. It would be very unfortunate to lose those areas in order to put in a gym,” said freshman film production major CJ Mitchell.

More updates from SGA and Fitness and Recreation Services will be given throughout this semester, according to Rosenberg. The center will be taking student recommendations for equipment and services at www.chapman.edu/fitness

Starting on Feb. 18, the university will be accepting job applications for students who want to work in the Henley Hall Fitness Center during the 2019-2020 school year, according to the email.