The February 2010 biology department shootings helped put the University of Alabama in Huntsville on top of a national website's ranking of "America's 25 Most Crime-Rattled Colleges." The unofficial ranking, based on an analysis of crime reports, was released Tuesday by the website "The Daily Beast."
UAH spokesman Ray Garner called the ranking skewed in an interview with WHNT News 19 news partner, The Huntsville Times:
"It is no secret that we had a tragic shooting incident on our campus in 2010, and that event heavily skewed this ranking," Garner said Tuesday. "If you look at our overall crime statistics, you will find outside that isolated event that our university offers a safe environment for the thousands of students, faculty and staff that travel around our campus."
While taking a UAH campus tour Wednesday, parent of a prospective 2013 freshman Julie DiLiberty told WHNT News 19 she find the report ludicrous. DiLiberti says she has no qualms about safety in considering sending her son to study computer science at the university next year.
"Looking around today, absolutely not, we've seen some police presence on campus just doing patrols and we see the emergency call boxes and you certainly don't get a feeling of apprehension when you're on campus," DiLiberti said.
Incoming fall 2012 freshman Malaysia Denton said she agrees.
"It's shocking," said Denton. "I don't feel Huntsville is dangerous in the least compared to Birmingham or Mobile, places like that."
The website said it based its rankings on a system it designed to compare and rank per-capita crime in certain categories as reported by colleges to the U.S. Department of Education. The reporting period was 2008-2010, which included the period of a triple homicide committed during a biology faculty meeting on the UAH campus. A former assistant biology professor, Dr. Amy Bishop, faces trial in September 2012 on those charges.
"The crimes we considered were: murder, negligent murder, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, car theft, and arson," the website explained. "Because not all crimes are the same, we devised a subjective weighting system based on crime severity. Burglary established our low-end baseline for weighting; car theft was weighted twice as much as burglary; assault and robbery, six times as much as burglary; arson and negligent manslaughter, 10 times as much as burglary; and murder, 20 times as much as burglary." Each campus was also compared based on enrollment.
According to the website, UAH had the following numbers of crimes during the 2008-2010 period surveyed: 3 homicides, 4 robberies, 10 aggravated assaults, 80 burglaries and 8 car thefts.