JEFFERSON CITY - According to blog site The Daily Beast's college safety rankings, Washington University in St. Louis is the 13th most dangerous university campus in America.
Clark Merrefield, who co-authored the report (available here http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsmaker/college-safety-rankings/), said he used data distributed by the U.S. Department of Education (available here http://ope.ed.gov/security/) to compile the criminal offenses that occurred on each campus. Merrefield said his findings took into account reports from 2006 to 2008 and were adjusted to normalize varying enrollment sizes. Out of the 458 schools ranked, The University of Missouri-Columbia came in at 226.
Merrefield said he consulted safety experts to allot a "subjective" point value for each crime, setting burglaries as a baseline and murders as the most serious offense.
"It's sort of hard to say how much worse is a murder than being robbed," Merrefield said.
The school with the most points would thus be dubbed the most dangerous. This year, Tufts University in Boston takes the top spot.
MU Police Department Captain Brian Weimer said MU has placed additional officers, emergency phones, and surveillance cameras on campus in the past few years. Weimer said he feels MU is up to speed with their peers in terms of campus safety, and that the department will "continue to do what we're doing" to enforce laws.
Merrefield said a school's location played a large role in its safety rankings, with colleges in a city setting, like Washington University, having a higher crime rate.
'"I think the biggest thing is geography," Merrefield said. "Safer schools tend not to be in urban areas."
Merrefield said incidents of rape were not factored into a school's total score, but were still recorded in the report. Merrefield said rape was "a sticky data point." According to Merrefield, some schools do a better job of encouraging students to report rapes than others, and so it is likely that not all rapes are reported..
Robin Hattersley-Gray, executive editor of Campus Safety Magazine, echoed Merrefield's statements on rape reporting, and said if a campus has a particularly high number of reported rapes, it may mean the school is actually providing students with a secure environment to come forward.
"It doesn't mean they're doing a bad job," Hattersley-Gray said. "It could mean that they aren't in denial, or that their reporting policies are accessible to students. In that case, a higher rating would be a good thing."
Hattersley-Gray said many news outlets are "hesitant" to produce similar lists ranking universities as they are "almost impossible" to compile.
"It's really comparing apples to oranges," Hattersley-Gray said. "Every campus is different."