We plan to proceed on several fronts, including:
1. Collect data pre- and post-lighting projects to test whether lighting has an effect on women’s (and men’s) feelings of safety and, in turn, use of University facilities and sense of belonging.
2. Analyze “big data” from the University, such as ID card access data. For most buildings on Grounds—including academic buildings—people must use an ID card and “swipe in” to access buildings after hours. Accordingly, swipe access data provide an excellent proxy for use of space after hours. In conjunction with available crime data and data about lighting projects, we can use this information to examine how safety-related factors such as crime and lighting affect building use after hours. If we see female students and faculty decrease their use of lab spaces and similar facilities in response to crime events, this will provide evidence of ripple effects of local violence. If we see increases in the use of such spaces after better lighting is installed, this will suggest that such interventions have a beneficial impact.
3. Conduct lab experiments which assess whether safety concerns disproportionately affect women’s cognitive performance. If women are disproportionately concerned about their physical safety, this distraction might prevent them from focusing fully on their academic work.
Taken together, these studies will provide evidence for the links between safety, use of space, and gender disparities. The goal is to identify interventions and policies that can reduce such disparities, at UVA and elsewhere.
Your contributions will fund the time we need to conduct this important work.