Tufts University, Most Dangerous In America?

Published September 16, 2010

WBUR employs some street-smart Jumbos, but none of them can believe this: The Daily Beast reports Tufts University is America’s most dangerous college campus. A Tufts official calls the conclusion “gross inaccuracy.”

A statue of Mighty Jumbo, the Tufts University mascot (graysky/Flickr)

Mighty Jumbo (graysky/Flickr)

In its second annual ranking, the Daily Beast compiled federally mandated crime stats for campuses across the country.

The numbers for Tufts, which cover reports (not convictions) over the most recent three calendar years, are grim: one murder, 36 forcible rapes, 100 robberies, 119 aggravated assaults, 174 burglaries.

After the mean streets of Medford, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, comes in at No. 2. Harvard University comes in at No. 3; MIT is No. 14.

Tufts brass was quick to respond, noting its crime data covers all three campuses, including in Chinatown. In an internal memo provided to me by a source, Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell calls the Daily Beast’s methodology “flawed” (emphasis mine):

First, unlike some Boston area universities, Tufts has reported to the U.S. Department of Education not only incidents that take place on our three campuses but also incidents on adjacent public property that are reported to us by municipal police. This is done so that our community is aware of such incidents and can take proper precautions, but it may create the misperception that our campuses are less safe than they really are. Most of those off-campus incidents do not involve Tufts students, faculty or staff. Second, safety data reported for our health sciences campus in downtown Boston has historically included off-campus areas that are several blocks away from campus–much farther than would normally be reported. This has also inflated the number of incidents reported for Tufts.

The Daily Beast explains its methodology this way:

We pored over the three most recent calendar years of campus security and crime data (2006-2008) compiled by the U.S. Department of Education, as well as the FBI and the Secret Service, in conjunction with the Clery Act, the federal mandate requiring all schools that receive federal funding to disclose crime information annually. The data reflect incidents reported to campus or local police, not convictions.

If you don’t go to school in Camberville, the report does offer uplifting news: Nationwide, incidents of major crimes on college campuses are down, compared to last year’s report (which, by the way, named Emerson College most dangerous).

Are you a student who feels unsafe? Or do you think the rankings are bogus?