Reader's Digest Grades Colleges on Safety Preparedness

Almost a year after the massacre at Virginia Tech, American colleges have made great strides in securing their campuses and protecting their students, according to a report in the March issue of Reader's Digest. However, as RD researchers discovered when they conducted a survey of 135 colleges and universities, much remains to be done. The report, "Safe at School?," examines the many safety threats college students face and describes some of the best safety practices schools employ.

The survey takes into consideration the many variables between campuses, including size and location, and evaluates each of the 135 schools in the study with a grade of A, B, or C based on their readiness to handle on-campus threats to safety and security. Surprisingly, several urban schools, such as John Hopkins University and New York University, rated higher on campus safety than many schools in suburban areas or smaller cities, such as Bryn Mawr College or Wesleyan University, emphasizing that preparedness has more to do with appropriate allocation of resources and less to do with geographical setting, the report says.

According to crime data filed with the federal office of Postsecondary Education, the 6,000 U.S. colleges and universities report some 40,000 burglaries, 3,700 forcible sex offenses, 7,000 aggravated assaults and 48 murders each year--much of it triggered by alcohol abuse. In addition to the threat of crime, campus housing fires have nearly doubled since 1998; suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among students, after accidents; and alcohol contributes to an estimated 1,700 student deaths and nearly 600,000 injuries a year.

The March issue of Reader's Digest goes on sale on newsstands Feb. 19. Meanwhile, the full survey results can be seen at http://www.rd.com, along with the methodology used.

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