University earns ‘A’ in campus safety report

Washington University earned an “A” in a recent Reader’s Digest report about the safety of college campuses in the United States. The University was ranked eighth out of 135 institutions surveyed.

Reader’s Digest surveyed colleges and universities about their safety practices. Based on their responses, schools were assigned a grade of A, B or C.

“We are pleased with the recognition but realize that rankings mean little to a person who is the victim of a serious accident on campus or the victim of a violent crime,” said Bruce Backus, assistant vice chancellor for environmental health and safety. “That’s why we are continually striving to improve our safety and security programs as well as our disaster-preparedness planning and response efforts.

“The campus safety program at Washington University is a collaborative effort,” Backus said, “involving many departments, University and student groups, faculty, staff, students, parents of students, alumni and others. We all work together to foster a culture of safety, where everyone watches out not only for their own safety and security but also the safety of everyone within the University and the surrounding communities.”

Chief of University Police Don Strom echoed Backus’ comments. “While we appreciate the recognition, it is critical that our community continue to stay focused on our shared responsibility for enhancing safety and security on campus,” Strom said.

“Our safety and security awareness programs and security steps are important, but the most important component is the community’s awareness and commitment to identifying and reporting safety and security concerns,” he said.

For the report, schools completed a questionnaire about safety practices, which asked the schools to list the percentage of students living in dorms with safety cameras, with smoke detectors, with full-time security and with doors that feature peepholes or chains.

The survey also asked each school to provide its number of full-time University police and whether topics such as binge drinking, drug use and rape were discussed during freshman orientation.

Of the 135 colleges and universities participating in the survey, 45 earned an A grade; 46 earned a B; and 44 a C.

The report is published in the March 2008 issue and is available online at