Mindy Gertler and her friends are afraid to walk around the University of Maryland campus at night, where dark passages and unlit sidewalks have given cover for rapes and robberies.
With two rapes, six attempted rapes, 70 assaults and 18 armed robberies since last September, and a recent FBI report ranking the campus fifth in robberies and eighth in assaults among 300 colleges nationally, they say they have reason to stay home after dark.
"My first two years at school I wouldn't go to the library at night because no one would go with me," said Gertler.
Gertler is doing more than staying home. As a legislative intern this year for Sen. Howard Denis (R-Montgomery County) in the Maryland General Assembly, she has drafted a bill to allocate $600,000 to install better lighting on the College Park campus.
Students packed the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee hearing room in Annapolis Monday to give testimony to the need for additional lighting. The group, which numbered about 50, demonstrated outside with placards but filed quietly into the hearing room, where they spoke eloquently and convincingly before the senators.
"I've never seen anything like it," said a jubilant Denis, who submitted the bond bill for Gertler. "It's one of the first public hearings where I've heard testimony turn votes around."
"We're going to make certain those lights are there," said Sen. Peter Bozick (D-Prince George's), a member of the committee. "Many of the legislators didn't know about the situation. We were favorably impressed with the students. They spoke cogently and were well mannered.It spoke well for the university."
"She did it. It's the Gertler bill. I offered to put in the bond bill as a vehicle to make their views known. These are kids who are really concerned. Some are even frightened. I'm really proud of my intern," said Denis.
Gertler, 20, is a College Park resident and a native of Bethesda. She said she decided to act as a constituent rather than just as a staff member.
The bill, SB 788, will be voted on by the committee at an unspecified date. If it passes, it will go on to the Senate.
A five-step plan to improve lighting on the campus was begun in 1974, the third phase nearing completion this spring. A total of $1.3 million has been spent on lighting so far, and the $600,000 for the fourth phase was not included in this year's capital budget.