Why are some parts of campus not well lit?

Date: October 2018


Dear Deans,

Thank you for your time reading and answering my question.

I would like to know why some parts of campus are not very well lit. Do you have special light systems used only in winter? I ask this because I have heard that during winter, it gets dark very early (sometimes around 5) and it can get really dark in some areas (this is my first year).

I am located in a building on the Arts Quad and I have to cross this beautiful grass square to get to the bus station. It gets so dark in the evening that now I am avoiding staying after dark (which I do not want to do) not only because of safety issues (I trust that Cornell’s campus is very safe) but also because it is really hard to see anything. I have seen some people using their cell phones to illuminate the way.

I appreciate your attention and I really like the Ask a Dean feature.


New Student in the Dark


Dear New Student in the Dark,

Thanks very much for your Ask a Dean submission.  I hope you are enjoying your first year in graduate school at Cornell.

I understand your concern about evening lighting, especially in the fall and winter months when daylight is shorter.  I had a similar experience years ago when I was appointed as the first female senior associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, working in Roberts Hall on the Ag Quad.   I often worked into the evening hours only to exit onto a pitch-dark quad and have to find my way alone. It was pretty unnerving.  I alerted Cornell facilities staff, and eventually lighting on the Ag Quad was much improved and blue light phones were made more accessible there. 

The Graduate School has no authority for facilities and lighting on the Arts Quad, but I’ll convey your concerns to the appropriate university facilities staff.  My experience is that facilities staff appreciate suggestions and work hard to find the resources to solve specific problems on campus.

In the meantime, though, you can use the Blue Light Escort Service:  “Cornell’s pioneering Blue Light program promotes and safeguards personal security and well-being on the Cornell campus, particularly at night. When a Blue Light Escort is requested, two members of the Cornell University Police Auxiliary accompany any member of the Cornell community or visitor to destinations on campus or near campus. If you are riding a bus, they will wait with you at the stop until the bus arrives.

Blue Light Escorts are members of the Cornell community hired and trained by Cornell Police and are certified security guards. Each escort wears a highly visible uniform and is in direct radio contact with Cornell Police. To request an escort team, call (607) 255-7373, or use one of the Blue Light phones on campus. The service operates from dusk to dawn every day during the fall and spring semesters.”

Also check out the Blue Light and TCAT Buses:  “The Blue Light buses are offered nightly on TCAT Routes 92 and 93, operating on campus from 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. throughout the year. Matriculated students receive unlimited rides on all TCAT buses after 6 p.m. on weekdays and any time on Saturday and Sunday when using their Cornell ID card at the fare box. Route and schedule information are at tcatbus.com.”

Because the Blue Light Escorts are familiar with the campus, they should be able to help you navigate the darkness of the Arts Quad both from a safety perspective as well as making sure you don’t trip over anything in the dark!

Warm regards,


Barbara A. Knuth
Dean of the Graduate School