On Nov. 20, Business Insider published “The Most Dangerous Colleges in America,” with a list of 25 colleges deemed the least safe in the nation. Crime reports from 2011 determined these choices and only schools with at least 10,000 students enrolled were eligible for the ranking process. To the surprise of many NAU students, our very own Flagstaff Mountain campus was on this list, ranked the 16th most dangerous American college campus.
According to Business Insider, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report identified 2,696 violent crime incidents and 87,160 incidents of property crime in the United States on or around college campuses. The business site stated NAU, with a student population of 25,197, had 20 incidents of violent crime and 328 property crime incidents in 2011 – murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault constitute as violent crimes, while a property crime consists of burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft or arson. To calculate violence amounts, Business Insider counted violent crimes as carrying four times more weight than the property crimes.
The fallacies in this article are threefold. The article includes crime reports from outside the campuses, rankings are per-capita based and the level of accurate crime reporting varies from each university.
Many universities filed complaints regarding the methods used and the factors ignored in the creation of the list. An article was released the following week to rectify any incorrect or skewed data. Due to many objections, Business Insider posted a new list based on only on-campus crime. NAU was not in the top 25 after the erasure of off-campus and Flagstaff community crime but instead ranked 39. Unfortunately, the new and lessened crime results were not listed for NAU.
Despite these updates, the list is still misleading. NAU has a relatively small population in comparison to other universites and thus is at a disadvantage with the per-capita method of measuring violence. Obviously, larger campuses like ASU have more crimes — both violent and property — but with such a large ratio to work with, those numbers seem less significant.
Business Insider also refused to acknowledge the vital difference between crimes committed and crimes reported. While Gus Lubin, the writer of the revised article, mentioned “Some colleges probably are more aggressive in reporting crimes . . . and some colleges do not participate in the survey at all,” he did not state the list’s related inaccuracy.
NAU strongly encourages victims to report crimes, especially violent or sexual assaults. It is not fair this administration must suffer a negative light by media scrutiny for having both safety initiatives and accurate records.
Business Insider is essentially punishing schools who pay more attention to the well-being of their students, faculty and nearby residents by encouraging them to report crimes. The schools not participating in the survey by refusing to release their records are exempt from ranking, which is also unfair. The least Business Insider could have done was provide knowledge of which schools chose not to participate.
Looking past the statistical biases with Business Insider’s two articles, there is some good news: College campuses are fairly safe, at least compared to other places.
Howard University, ranked the most dangerous college based on on-campus records from 2011, had less than 30 incidents of violent crimes; not a low number, but not significantly high, either.
To compare, Flint, Michigan, ranked number one on Business Insider’s “The 25 Most Dangerous Cities in America” list, had an unbelievable 2,337 violent crimes reported per every 100,000 people in 2011. Although, coming from Business Insider, who knows how truthful this statistic is.
Neither NAU nor Flagstaff, in all their humble glory, would be anywhere near these lists had the lists been put together properly. Perhaps this calm mountain town simply breeds those willing to speak out against crimes more so than other schools.
The idea NAU could ever be the 16th most dangerous school in the U.S. during our lifetime is laughable. Business Insider clearly has no authority to determine the status of campus safety and damage the reputation of highly regarded and truthful universities.