Campus safety should factor into college rankings

By Isabelle Cavazos, COLUMNIST
On April 15, 2014

 

When potential students are considering which college is the right choice for them, they may research a school’s graduation rates or financial resources — facts typically calculated in traditional college rankings in
the U.S.

However, 12 members of Congress wrote to the U.S. News & World Report, which releases lists for the best-ranked high schools and universities, pressing for college rankings to include how colleges respond to sexual assault reports — a change which would provide prospective students and their families with an accurate understanding of how campuses deal with this wide-reaching issue and encourage universities to improve their effectiveness in handling these cases.

The occurrences of rape and sexual assault on college campuses should already be a motivating force for colleges to respond to cases of sexual assault as much as they can. According to a report by the National Institute of Justice, 35 incidents of rape occur each academic year per 1,000 students.

Additionally, the Journal of American College Health reports 19 percent of undergraduate women experienced sexual assault while in college.

In spite of these rates, it seems as though some university is constantly in the media for the way it handles cases of
sexual assault.

Currently, the University of Missouri is in question for its failure to adhere to federal law, requiring universities to instruct employees to report sexual assault and harassment to the Title IX coordinator — with Title IX being a civil rights law forbidding discrimination based on sex and
sexual assault.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating Florida State University to determine if it properly addressed the rape allegations of quarterback Jameis Winston under Title
IX laws.

When students are searching for colleges, it is doubtful many of them spend much time considering where a school stands in its reaction to cases such as these. However, this information should be put to the forefront because of the prevalence of these issues on college campuses.

However, one major concern that may arise if campus safety becomes a factor in college rankings is that a school’s ranking may no longer reflect its
academic achievements.

According to an article by the Huffington Post, the failure of many of U.S. News’ top-ranking universities to properly assess sexual assault is also gaining awareness as institutions such as Yale, Harvard and Amherst have all mismanaged sexual assault cases during the past year.

Despite the already legitimate concern, maybe if prestigious universities such as Columbia or Dartmouth fall from their U.S. News top 10 rankings then there will finally be motivation to solve the problem of sexual violence on college campuses. These schools, as well as all schools, should pay closer attention to instances of sexual assault, which is already the most underreported crime, according to the National Institute
of Justice.

Though modifying college rankings will not necessarily put an end to the occurrences of sexual assault on college campuses, it would be effective in providing prospective students with a well-rounded understanding of whether schools exercise proper responsibility with these cases and hold the schools accountable when they fall short of their expectations.

Isabelle Cavazos is a sophomore majoring in English.

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