Student safety, not student ratios

Crime rate should be calculated into college rankings

Editorial Board

Let’s be honest, most of us at DVC are here to transfer.

We want to move onto some great school, get a degree and eventually get a good job.

When it comes to deciding which college we want to go to, we may look at factors such as campus’ location, the kind of program for our major and the university’s prestige. Of course all those factors are based on each individual’s perception.

A way to determine a university’s prestige is by national ranking, where an independent body determines which factors would be important for an educational institution to be considered top-ranking.

However, recently, various lawmakers have added a new criteria to the determine ranking. Namely, the school’s response and handling of sexual assaults.

Lawmakers are urging the U.S. News & World Report, a leader in publishing news and consumer guides for rankings, to consider campus safety as a factor in judging colleges.

According to an SFGate article from April 12, a dozen members of the House Representatives sent a letter to the U.S. News & World Report. In the letter, lawmakers urged that “institutions that fail to adequately respond to sexual violence should not receive accolades from your publication.”

They continued on, to say that “nearly 20 percent of women are victims of attempted or actual sexual assault, along with 6 percent of men.”

As it stands, colleges don’t seem to be making their students’ safety nearly as much a priority as they do their prestige in other factors.

Lawmakers may have a point: if we want to get colleges to be more proactive about safety, the compromising of their rankings is likely the most effective strategy.

In recent cases, some universities were found to be entirely dismissive in reporting sexual assault incidents on campus.

An article by MSNBC from April 24, reported that a group of 23 students from Columbia University filed a more-than-100-page complaint citing, the Ivy League school had allowed sexual assault perpetrators to stay on campus and that survivors of such incidents were discouraged from reporting assaults. Also individuals who protested against the school’s response faced retaliation.

A similar case was brought up at UC Berkeley.

According to The Huffington Post on April 21, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating UC Berkeley for failing to report sexual assaults on campus, which also lead to offenders staying on campus.

This investigation stemmed from complaints filed this past February, where 31 former and current students said that this nationally top ranked school violated Title IX, a gender equity law that mandates schools to report sexual assault cases.

These are only a few of the numerous incidents where colleges mishandled sexual assaults on campus, inadvertently letting their students down.

Lawmakers seem to have noticed that the mishandling of these cases is becoming a prevalent issue across college campuses, and we concur with their appeal to U.S. News & World Report to include campus safety as a category to judge colleges.

These rankings are currently based on undergraduate academics, retention rates, graduation rates, class size, admissions selectivity, wealth and alumni donations.

Whether or not rankings are a significant factor in your transfer decisions, some colleges have gone to great lengths to boost their rank for U.S. News.

A New York Times article from Jan. 31, 2012 reported several instances where colleges and universities lied about their statistics in order to gain ground in the U.S. News rankings.

In 2008, Baylor University in Texas gave financial rewards to admitted students who would retake the SAT in an effort to raise their average score.

Lastly, Iona College in New York admitted to lying about test scores, graduation rates, student-faculty ratio. freshman retention, acceptance rates and alumni giving in 2011. The Times article goes on to say that U.S. News ranked the college 30th in “regional universities,” but with correct information, would have dropped to 50th.

That is 20 places above their deserved rank, that is 20 colleges that could’ve done better.

So what does this all mean?

If colleges want to keep their precious rankings, calculating campus safety into rankings would force them to step up and be honest with their reports. Reports that could include sexual assaults on campus could be a bad reflection on them, but that should only motivate colleges to act appropriately and protect their students.

Too often do students look at prestige and choose colleges for their namesake, something that goes hand in hand with rankings. It’s important that students recognize that campus safety is a serious issue that could affect their college experience, as well as the outcomes for the rest of their lives.

Choosing a university to transfer to, can be a difficult decision. But demanding transparency from a prospective college shouldn’t.