Unlit campus path increases chance of sexual violence, Lennoxville students say

Students at Champlain College in Lennoxville say they're fed up with having to go through a darkened path that connects the school to campus residences.

Students string Christmas lights along dark, wooded path in call for safety improvements

Students at Champlain College say the lack of lights on a frequently used wooded pathway exposes them to the threat of sexual violence. (Antoni Nerestnat/CBC)

Students at Champlain College in Lennoxville say they're fed up with having to go through a darkened path that connects the school to campus residences.

Accompanied by teachers, the students lit up the corridor this week with Christmas lights to show that a permanent solution is needed for a major on-campus security concern.

"It is pitch black," said Claudia Marcantoni, a student at Champlain College. "I mean if someone were to grab you, you couldn't even tell how tall they were."

The students' initiative to light the path came less than a week after the United Nations launched its 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign.

Claudia Marcantoni is in her second year at Champlain College in Lennoxville. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC)

The path runs through a heavily wooded area and the walk between student residences and the main building can take about 10 minutes.

Avoiding that path would double the length of the walk, students say.

One of them, Sandrine Haentjens, says she tries to avoid the walkway even though she lives on campus.

For Haentjens, the lack of lights as well as the noises made by wildlife on campus are just some of the factors that make for a stressful walk.

"Sometimes, you'll hear someone coming from the opposite direction and you'll be like "oh no, oh no, oh no" and then it turns out to be another [student]," she said.

This pathway is completely dark when students walk back to their campus residences after evening classes. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC)

'You just run'

Many students say they've heard of several incidents on the path in recent years, including sexual assaults, but say the lack of lights make it unlikely a victim would report what happened.

"You just run," Marcantoni said. "You don't think to turn on your flashlight, you run for your life."

Marcantoni says it's only a matter of time before a student gets attacked or sexually assaulted if proper lighting is not installed.

Some students say they ask friends to drive them home in order to avoid walking through the dark corridor. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC)

Open to solutions with negotiations ahead

The pathway is on property that belongs to neighbouring Bishop's University.

A school spokesperson told CBC news that it is open to discussing possible solutions with Champlain College when the two sides negotiate the renewal of lease agreements that are set to expire next summer.

The spokesperson said the two lease agreements deal with services and space, respectively.