Editorial: We Aren’t Convinced

Editorial: ed·i·to·ri·al
[ed-i-tawr-ee-uhl, -tohr-] noun:
An article that represents the official viewpoint of a newspaper on a topic of public interest.

On Sept. 20, Dr. Robin Bowen tweeted that Arkansas Tech University is ranked the safest public university in Arkansas. On the same day, university relations elaborated on the tweet and released a full-fledged article announcing the ranking. (you can visit it at www.arkansastechnews.com/university/arkansas-tech-recognized-as-safe-campus/).

We aren’t convinced that Arkansas Tech University is the safest public university in Arkansas.

The evidence presented by BackgroundChecks.org, the organization who made the safest universities list, is not convincing enough, and the crime statistics reported by public universities in the state do not show Arkansas Tech as a conclusive “safest” university.

The crime rating system that backgroundchecks.org lists as justification is basic and consist of one statistic: crimes per 1,000 residents.

The best criteria for ranking campus safety is admittedly hard to determine. To ascertain what campus is the safest, we reason you would have to assign point values to crime. BackgroundChecks.org is not clear or upfront about how they calculated their ranking. It said they used data from recent “Department of Education Reports,” which we assume means the data made available to the public through the Clery Act.

Looking the Clery Act data from the 2014 calendar year, which is the most recent data that would have been available to BackgroundChecks.org at the time of their ranking, Arkansas Tech ranks higher in several areas of crime than most other public universities in the state. We implore readers to look at the front-page story in this week’s edition to find the data and form their own conclusions.

Furthermore, BackgroundChecks.org is not a recognized leader in the field of campus safety. It does not qualify as an expert in this area, and there are no staff names publicly listed on the website. There is no contact information on the website and the domain is privately registered, meaning there is no public indication of what organization or person creates the content.

When navigating to BackgroundChecks.org, users will see a “sponsored search” that dominates a large part of the screen real estate. When users attempt to search using those text boxes, it navigates them to a paid background search site.

On the bottom of the screen, articles such as “INFOGRAPHIC: The Lies We Tell on Resumes” and “35 Heinous Craigslist Crimes” are featured. We would hope you wouldn’t take your campus safety information that has these types of articles.

It is our belief that the university did not exercise due diligence in broadcasting this ranking of Arkansas Tech. Hundreds of people liked or shared the information online, trusting Arkansas Tech to only publish trustworthy material. This is proof that there needs to exist an ongoing wariness of the nature of public relations arms of public institutions.

As part of our roles as journalists, we promise not to spin the facts or circulate information from disreputable sources. And, unlike BackgroundChecks.org, our contact information is listed publicly in our masthead