opinion by Maylon Rice
Editor’s note: Maylon Rice is a former newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several newspapers over the past 40 years. He ran, unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A native of Warren, Rice lives in Fayetteville.
Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.
The above is not a headline that parents of college students at the state’s flagship campus like to see, but as always, “the devil is in the details.”
Yes, while the Razorback football team may have tied with Kentucky (the Eastern Division cellar dweller with a 0-8 conference football record), the University of Arkansas, did rank in the Top Five in the SEC in number of arrests for “illicit drug and drug paraphernalia” over a three year period from 2010-2012, according to federal reporting guidelines under the Clery Act.
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act or Clery Act is a federal statute. The law is named for Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old Lehigh University freshman who was raped and murdered in her campus residence hall in 1986.
The UA ranked No. 4 in the 14 campus SEC in drug arrests.
The federal statute requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their respective campuses. The on-campus University of Arkansas Police Department verified the statistics and the SEC ranking for the flagship campus newspaper, The Arkansas Traveler, this past week.
Between 2010 and 2012, the number drug arrests were 333, according to the UAPD. The arrests do not distinguish between students enrolled or other persons on campus in the Fayetteville community when the arrests were made. It does, however, include statistics from those arrested off campus who are students enrolled at the university.
The survey did not include alcohol arrests, the UAPD and the newspaper said.
Broken down over the three years period, the UA campus arrests were 109 in 2010; 99 in 2011 and 125 in 2012. Or a campus average of five arrested out of every 1,000 enrolled during the time period.
Arkansas’ enrollment for comparison was 23,199 (for 2012 the latest federal reporting period in the story). The UA has the fourth lowest enrollment in the SEC, ahead of only Mississippi State (20,424), Ole Miss (18,224) and Vanderbilt (12,836). Ten other SEC schools have higher enrollments than Arkansas.
Leading the SEC in illicit drug arrests over the three year time period was the University of Missouri with 982 arrests. Second through fifth were: University of Florida, 408; Vanderbilt University, 341; UA-Fayetteville, 333; and University of Georgia, 332.
Sixth through 10th in arrests, were: University of Kentucky, 313; (Ole Miss) University of Mississippi, 274; University of Alabama, 260; Louisiana State University, 258; and University of South Carolina, 257.
Rounding out the arrests were: Texas A&M University, 149; Mississippi State, 125; Auburn University, 108 and University of Tennessee, 83. Tennessee had 30,194 enrolled during this time period.
The University of Missouri had the most arrests 982 under the time period. And the campus also had the highest percentage of arrests per 1,000 persons enrolled – eight out of every 1,000 enrolled. Vanderbilt, the SEC’s only private and non-public institution with the smallest enrollment of 12,836, had the second highest percentage of persons arrests – seven of every 1,000 enrolled.
The University of Arkansas statistics, we believe, while shockingly high on a public relations scale, may better reflect an informed, well trained and highly efficient campus and community police force enforcing Arkansas’ laws on one of the smaller enrollments and in the City of Fayetteville, in the SEC.
Another glaring example to ponder might be Texas A&M, with the largest enrollment o 50,230, had only 149 reported arrests in the three year period. Or a one-arrest-in-1,000 students enrollment average. How about looking at the University of Tennessee, which had only 83 arrests over three year period. With Tennessee being another one-in-1,000 student enrollment arrest average on an enrollment of 30,194, one might wonder about the validity of crime reporting. Tennessee is in last place on total arrests and tied with Texas A&M and Auburn with the lowest arrests per 1,000 enrolled with only one-in-one-thousand enrolled.
Are the students at Tennessee and Texas A&M so much different than our UA students? Or those at the University of Missouri, No. 1 in both arrests – 982 over the three year period or that eight arrests-out-of-every 1,000 enrolled?
I believe the local police departments – from the Arkansas State Police, Washington County Sheriff’s office, City of Fayetteville, and even the University of Arkansas Police force – accurately, fairly, efficiently and professionally report these crimes, investigate the violations, and yes, make arrests of those breaking the Arkansas and federal drug laws. So being in the Top 4 out of the SEC’s 14 campuses, even in a less than desirable category, does have an intrinsic value when human life and safety are concerned.
We feel our flagship campus is a safe, secure institution of higher education and not a haven for drug use or other drug related crimes. We value safety and commend our enforcement agencies for their diligence in reporting these real statistics – even if the totals make us take in a quick breath.
A No. 4 ranking isn’t something from which to shirk, but maybe it can be used to show nervous parents that illicit drug use won’t be tolerated.