Campus Announces New “Lights Out” Initiative

Published: March 31, 2018 | Read Time: 3 minutes

Emboldened by the success of interdisciplinary studies major MacKenzie Manis with the Utah Legislature to pass a Dark Sky bill, Southern Utah University is officially launching the Lights Out Initiative.

"SUU will be the first university to preserve the pristine skies of southern Utah,” said SUU spokesperson Ellen Treanor.  “Our goal is that faculty, staff and students will be able to view the brilliant river of stars, which is obscured by light pollution for 80% of Americans.”

The Lights Out Initiative will impact all of campus life, with the most significant change the new ‘Light Curfew’. All lights on campus will be turned off at 6:00 p.m. daily, regardless of events or activities.

With the new light curfew in place, students will have to rely on a variety of means for light sources. Flashlights, candles, and even headlamps will be supplied to help students find their way to their dorms and cars.

"It will be harder to find my car, but the views will be worth it," said Miles Anderson, master of public administration student.

"A dark sky initiative is great for all city residents, particularly for students,” said Cameron Pace, assistant professor of physics and manager of the Ashcroft Observatory. “Phones greatly disrupt the night sky, so the initiative bans after-dark phone use on campus. This is actually good for students because they can help with resource conservation and they (and the university) can also expect a lower monthly power bill."

In addition to SUU’s personal investment in the Lights Out initiative, the school has a secondary cause for the new policy. As the University of the Parks, SUU is dedicated to participating in the value and experience of the outdoors. By cutting light emissions by nearly 90%, the university is continuing to do its part in the fight to preserve nature’s eclectic beauty.

The new policy may have other potential upsides beyond energy. SUU Athletic Director Debbie Corum has begun feasibility studies for a new division one sport: competitive laser tag. The team would be able to take advantage of the extended darkness, especially in the America First Events Center. SUU will have the only organized college team, placing them at the top of the competitive league by default.

SUU anticipates increased sales for candles, headlamps and flashlights in the area, so a partnership with the local Walmart is in process. Negotiations have started to order enough headlamps to be available for every student. This initiative will be paid for by a required “light” fee included in each semester’s cost of tuition.

There is some backlash from some administrators who work late, like Marvin Dodge, Vice President of Finance & Administration, who said, "This makes working from home a more feasible option since I usually work until after midnight."

Likewise, a similar backlash has come from students protesting the new mandatory headlamp fee. Many refuse to pay, turning instead to other vendors such as Craigslist and eBay in order to purchase glow sticks in bulk.

Treanor discounts the naysayers, claiming this initiative will draw more students to the school, she said, "We expect an increase of at least 5,000 students who crave the natural beauty and wonder of the dark sky."

The Lights Out Initiative is effective as of April 1, 2018.

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