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Posted at 5:30 PM ET, 05/ 4/2010

How safe are college campuses?

By Valerie Strauss

[See update at end]

Every time there is a sensational murder on or around a college campus, school security becomes a hot issue, as it is today in the wake of the murder of a University of Virginia student and the arrest of her former boyfriend, also a student.

Parents of college students start to worry about the safety of their children, and school officials promise to look anew at their threat assessment capabilities.

Today all eyes are on UVA, where the attorney for George Huguely, the student charged with first-degree murder in the death of Yeardley Love, 22, told reporters that the lacrosse player's death was an accident and that the 22-year-old Huguely, also a lacrosse player, had not meant to end her life.

The case is receiving extensive media attention, in part, some say, because the victim was white, wealthy and beautiful, but also because murder is unusual on any college campus, especially at one of the country’s premier institutions.

So how safe are college campuses?

It’s fair to say that U.S. colleges and universities are safe, given that the country has the highest murder rate among the planet’s wealthy nations.

There are more than 17 million students attending 4,200 colleges and universities in the United States, and, according to a new government report on campus crime, which I wrote about yesterday, there were 174 murders and non-negligent manslaughter cases reported from 2005 to 2008, along with 46 negligent manslaughter cases. In the first category, there were 28 in 2005, 25 in 2006, 66 in 2007 and 55 in 2008; in the second category there were 33 in 2005, none in 2006, 8 in 2007 and 5 in 2008.

That said, all schools aren’t the same when it comes to security.

The Department of Education has a Web site where you can put in the name of a school and see all the crimes that institutions report annually to the government. Schools have been required for two decades to provide data on certain crimes under the Clery Law, named after a freshman who was raped and murdered at Lehigh University, which, it was discovered, hadn't told students about 38 violent crimes on campus in the three years prior to her slaying.

Remember that many schools have been criticized for underreporting crimes, but you can get some idea with The Campus Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool.

A few organizations have looked at different sets of data and actually ranked school safety. For example, after the murder of a doctoral student at Yale University last year, the Daily Beast analyzed data from 4,000 schools and looked at more than 50 different criteria, then judged the schools on a per-capita basis.

According to the Daily Beast, the least safe were Emerson College in Boston (which it said had almost no on-campus crime, but a lot right outside), Chicago’s Saint Xavier, The University of Maryland at Baltimore, Tufts University in Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The safest colleges in this ranking were the New York Institute of Technology, Farmingdale State University in New York, Grand Valley State University in Michigan, Indiana Wesleyan University, and Idaho State University.

For the record, here are the statistics that the University of Virginia reported to the federal government.

Murder/Non-negligent manslaughter
2006: 0
2007: 0
2008: 0

Negligent manslaughter
2006: 0
2007: 1
2008: 0

Sex offenses - Forcible
2006: 8
2007: 4
2008: 14

Sex offenses - Non-forcible (Include only incest and statutory rape)
2006: 0
2007: 0
2008: 0

Robbery
2006: 3
2007: 6
2008: 2

Aggravated assault
2006: 1
2007: 7
2008: 2

Burglary
2006: 96
2007: 73
2008: 76

Motor vehicle theft
2006: 1
2007: 4
2008: 9

Arson
2006: 3
2007: 5
2008: 0


UPDATE

After this was published, I was contacted by Jay Foot, executive director of media relations for Saint Xavier University.

Here's what he said:

Valerie: The Daily Beast list of “most dangerous” campuses is debatable. Saint Xavier University in Chicago is very safe, as the following publicly available low campus crime data shows:

Offenses – On Campus
Murder/Non-negligent manslaughter
2006: 0
2007: 0
2008: 0

Negligent manslaughter
2006: 0
2007: 0
2008: 0

Forcible sex offenses (including forcible rape)
2006: 2
2007: 1
2008: 0


Non-Forcible sex offenses (statutory and incest)
2006: 0
2007: 0
2008: 0

Robbery
2006: 1
2007: 0
2008:0

Aggravated Battery
2006: 0
2007: 0
2008: 0

Burglary
2006: 16
2007: 16
2008: 14

Motor Vehicle Theft
2006: 0
2007: 0
2008: 0

Arson
2006: 2
2007: 0
2008: 1

What about the surrounding community?…Saint Xavier University is located in Chicago’s 19th Ward, home to many police and fire fighters. Official Chicago Police Dept. crime statistics, which are readily available online, as is our campus crime data, are clear: where violent crimes are concerned, Chicago’s 19th Ward ranks 48th of 50 wards (in other words 3rd safest) in the city. At the time of the Daily Beast posting last fall it was 50th – as in the safest in the city. Saint Xavier University is a safe place to live and to learn.



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By Valerie Strauss  | May 4, 2010; 5:30 PM ET
Categories:  College Life, University of Virginia  | Tags:  George Huguelycharged with first-degree murder, college campuses and safety, college life, huegely, lacrosse murder, murder and uva, university of virginia, uva student killed, uva student murdered, yeardley and murder  
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Comments

44% of all students have been in an abusive relationship by the time they graduate from college.(1)

It's not sufficient for universities to offer their condolences after a student has already died, they need to proactively educate these young people about the very real dangers of dating violence.

And what role should the media play? I'm not content for them to simply report on these tragedies after the fact. The media has a powerful voice and concomitantly, a powerful obligation to educate the public about these issues.

Educate yourself about the very real dangers of dating violence today!

Jennifer Ann's Group
(in memory of Jennifer Ann Crecente, murdered on February 15, 2006 by her ex-boyfriend)
http://www.JenniferAnn.org

(1) The Journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine - July, 2008

Posted by: jenniferannsgroup | May 4, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

And what should a supermarket chain do if some of their cashiers are involved in domestic violence cases? Why is it the colleges' role to teach supposed adults how to behave?

My father once heard a friend say that when his daughter was getting old enough to date, he took her out to dinner and a show and treated her like a date. On the way home, he asked her if she had felt special and grown-up, and of course she had. He said, "Fine. Now you know who it feels to be respected by a man. Don't you ever go out on a second date with someone who doesn't make you feel that way."

I've also read that the most effective action against abusive males is the disapproval of other men.

It's not up to the colleges to keep people safe--it's up to the parents and peers to make it clear that no woman needs to put up with violence and no "real man" would be violent.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | May 5, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

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