Methodology flawed in safety rankings
Online news source The Daily Beast recently ranked the nation’s most dangerous university campuses. Much to our dismay, Washington University ranked 13th on that list. Given the recent crime on campus, it may not come as such a shock to see us ranked so highly.
Here at Student Life, we are not shocked, but puzzled. The methodology with which The Daily Beast approached these rankings is inherently flawed, and thus we feel that our position in these rankings is invalid, and not an accurate representation of campus safety or of the opinions of our student body.
The ranking methodology uses data collected from 2006-2008, from sources including the U.S. Department of Education, the FBI, the Secret Service and information disclosed in accordance with the Clery Act. According to The Daily Beast, the data were collected in nine different categories, including burglary, car theft, assaults, robberies, arson, non-forcible rapes, forcible rapes, negligent homicides and murders. Each type of crime is weighted by severity. The rankings also combine data collected from all campuses that belong to the universities. In our case, that means that data from the Danforth Campus, North Campus, West Campus and the Medical Campus are all factored into The Daily Beast’s interpretation of our campus safety.
One could see where this could lead to some issues. Included in our crime statistics was a 2008 murder at Children’s Hospital, which is considered to be part of the Medical Campus. Not only was the murder the result of a domestic dispute, but it is not at all related to the safety of the undergraduate student body. With murders weighted 40 times more than burglaries, the rankings simply represent a distorted look at our campus’s crime statistics. They also fail to distinguish between crimes committed on campus and crimes in the surrounding neighborhoods, skewing the crime statistics even further.
The Daily Beast has unfairly placed us among the most dangerous schools in the country. Not only is it an injustice to Wash. U., but it is also unfair to the other institutions that are inaccurately represented in the security rankings. The Daily Beast simply did not conduct due diligence in devising its methodology. Given the cursory analysis of the data collected, it seems the online news source’s intention was simply to garner unique Web page visits.
Our campus and the surrounding neighborhoods in which students live are diligently patrolled by Washington University police and by campus security. With services like Campus2Home and personal escorts, Wash. U. has ample security offerings for its students. Given that our campuses are located in urban areas, some more dangerous than others, crime is inevitable. It is a reality that we as students readily accepted when we decided to attend this institution. What we do not accept is a skewed representation of our campus’ safety.