Mourning Gladys

Ashland is responding to the death of SOU student Gladys Jimenez.

Photo courtesy of SOU Public Relations Department

Thursday was a day of mourning on the Southern Oregon University campus for Gladys Jimenez, the student who died after being hit by a car in a crosswalk last week. It was also a day of frustration and anger over why it took such a tragedy to address pedestrian safety.

University officials purchased 35 neon orange flags Thursday to install at five crosswalks along Siskiyou Boulevard in front of the campus as an immediate solution to the problem. Students can carry the flags with them as they cross the street to make themselves more visible.

Several other cities, including Berkeley, Calif., Salt Lake City and Kirkland, Wash., have used crosswalk flags to increase pedestrian safety.

Officials put the flags into use this morning, and plan to purchase more of the 18-inch banners as soon as local vendor Cantel of Medford, restocks.

The school has also begun conversations with the city about more long-term solutions.

"We are deeply concerned with the safety on Siskiyou Boulevard," said Craig Morris, the interim vice president of finance and administration. "We would like to see improvements in lighting on the boulevard. We'd also like to see some improvements to the crosswalks."

"It's disheartening that it takes a tragedy for people to respond to something that's been a problem for a long time," said student government member Brian Fox. The student government also plans to be involved in discussions with the city, he said.

Sophomore Amber DePerro said she would like to see the speed limit along Siskiyou Boulevard in front of the campus lowered to 20 mph.

"Some people just don't stop or slow down," she said. "Quite honestly, I'm nervous to go 30 where there are people walking."

An air of mourning hung over students and staff as the university scrambled to make students feel safe crossing the street.

Edrik Gomez met Jimenez just the day before the accident, but he remembered an outgoing girl with big plans.

"It was her first time coming to an LSU (Latino Student Union) meeting, and she immediately began giving her ideas," he said. "Especially the first time you meet a bunch of strangers, you don't start volunteering, but she did."

Jimenez proposed a march for immigrants' rights similar to one held in her hometown of Santa Rosa, as well as a series of narratives for a Cesar Chavez event the club is planning for March. The day before her death, the club approved her suggestion for the Chavez event.

About a dozen students gathered to remember Jimenez Wednesday morning at the Women's Resource Center, and more gathered later that night at the Commuter Resource Center. A celebration of her life is tentatively planned for next week.

Kristine Cox, who worked with Jimenez at the Queer Resource Center on campus, said she was "the most bubbly person" and "really accepting of everybody."

"She worked almost more hours than anybody down there, and she was a volunteer," Cox said. "She didn't even care she wasn't getting paid. She just did it to give back."

No citations have been issued so far for the driver of the car, Lesley Orr, a senior budget analyst at SOU, police said. The district attorney's office is reviewing the case and will take four to eight weeks to analyze a urine sample to determine whether the office files criminal or non-criminal charges.

"He is greatly affected and stricken by this incident as well," said SOU President Mary Cullinan about Orr. He was not at work on Thursday, she said.

The Jimenez family did not wish to make a statement, according to family friend Amanda Castro. An account has been set up through the SOU Foundation if anyone would like to establish a scholarship or set up a campus memorial in honor of Jimenez.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

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