Ten days after Emerson was rated the most dangerous college in the nation by a popular news aggregation Web site, campus police e-mailed a warning to all students and staff about a sexual assault committed against a student on Boston Common.
The warning, sent on Sept. 28 by Director of Public Safety George Noonan, detailed an attack three days before on a female student after she left the Loews Theater alone across the street from campus.
The student, whose name has been withheld by police for privacy reasons, crossed Tremont Street at about 11:35 p.m., according to the e-mail, and entered the Common, where she was approached by an unknown white male, about 30 to 40 years old, wearing a grey suit. He was bald and had a birthmark on his head, Noonan wrote.
The assailant told the student to sit down on a park bench next to the Silver Line bus stop. He then touched the student in an inappropriate way, Noonan wrote. After the incident the student fled to the nearby Little Building dormitory, where she alerted Emerson Police.
Emerson public safety officers searched the area but the suspect could not be found. Boston Police were notified and are investigating, he wrote.
"I think the college goes to considerable lengths to educate students about how they are in an urban environment," said Andrew Tiedemann, vice president of public affairs. "Late at night avoid walking around alone. Avoid crossing public parks."
The news of the assault came on the heels of a national college safety ranking by TheDailyBeast.com, a site that aggregates news and produces some of its own material.
The site ranked Emerson number 1 among unsafe campuses in the nation based on an analysis of data gathered by the Clery Act, a law passed in 1990 to publicize knowledge of campus crime. The data is gathered
and reported by the Department of Education.
According to The Beast, to get each school's ranking the article's writers developed a points system, with different values attached to different crimes.
They then divided the raw points by the number of undergraduates to come up with a ratio of crime-per-student. Schools with a smaller student body therefore had higher percentages, placing them further up the list.
Next, The Beast looked at all reported incidents, not just the ones that occurred on campus. Colleges are obligated to report crimes on and near their campuses, according to the law.
Noonan said Emerson's Department of Public Safety is obligated to report crimes committed on Boston Common, which typically don't involve Emerson students.
Lilly Slayden, a sophomore visual media arts major, said she's been mugged before in her home neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, but that she has never experienced crime first hand in Boston.
"The streets are safer here," Slayden, who lives on campus in the Colonial Building, said. "New York is supposed to be the safest big city, and I feel safer here [in Boston.]"
The waves made by the poor rating and the assault did not seem to extend much farther than the Boston area. Francesca Blanchard, from Charlotte, Vermont, who was on campus touring the college with her father, said she had not heard about the recent assault or the Beast rating.
"It looks pretty safe," Blanchard said. "I haven't thought about it."
Blanchard said she plans to apply to mostly urban schools. After hearing about the incidents, she said that they don't change how she views Emerson.
"On the tour they said safety is very promising here," she said.
Another student, freshman Adalee Reise, said she hasn't had any bad experiences so far, but she could see where the dangers lie, and put the onus on fellow students to be wary.
"My conception of Boston-I have a lot of faith in staying here," the theater education major said in an interview. "Don't be dumb. Don't go walking alone at 11:30 on the Common."