Rhodes College - concerned about safety in Memphis

Another wrote about Memphis, Tenn.:

“This is considered a reasonably safe smaller city.”

Just google: The 10 Most Dangerous Cities In America for 2019"

You should discover many resources which list Memphis, Tennessee as the second or third most dangerous city in the US for 2019 & 2020. Has been true for decades.

While Rhodes College may be in a safe area, Memphis is dangerous.

In 2008 a thread titled “Crime in Memphis” appeared on College Confidential.

One recent list of the 10 most dangerous cities in America for 2019:

  1. St. Louis

  2. Memphis

  3. Little Rock

  4. Springfield, Mo.

  5. Albuquerque

  6. Oakland, Calif.

  7. Chattanooga, Tenn.

  8. Pueblo, Colorado

  9. Baltimore, Maryland

  10. Anchorage, Alaska

Yet, WashUStL & Rhodes College have safe campus locations as both are located in good areas of town.

I am happy to answer any questions about Rhodes. I am an alum and am also on staff at the college (but not Admissions staff). I have twins who are graduating high school in May 2021. Both have applied to Rhodes, as well as other small liberal arts colleges.

With regard to the safety question, I believe the best sources are current students and parents, and so I direct you to their responses. Suffice it to say that I feel completely safe on campus and would have no concerns about sending my children to Rhodes.

A lot of social life centers on Greek organizations, but (other than formals) parties are typically open to all students. Recruitment for Greek organizations moved to Spring semester a few years ago, which gives students an entire semester to figure out whether Greek life is right for them and, if so, which house they would like to join. Houses are more like meeting lodges (students don’t live there), so Greek life feels less all-consuming than it can feel when Greek affiliation determines social life and where students live. There are also many active clubs, as well as RAB (Rhodes Activities Board), that sponsor social activities for students. As is typical on college campuses, clubs are often centered on shared interests. Community service is also popular among students, with a variety of ways for them to get involved.

Off-campus, students often go downtown, to Crosstown Concourse (a renovated Sears tower that is set up as a vertical village with restaurants, coffee shop, etc.), or to the Cooper-Young, Broad Ave., or Overton Square entertainment districts (all less than 10 minutes from campus). The Midtown area, where Rhodes is located, is home to many great local restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc. frequented by Rhodes students. Memphis also has a professional basketball team, the Grizzlies. Tickets to Grizz games, plays at local theaters, etc. are frequently made available to students for a nominal fee. In a non-COVID world, there are many interesting lectures, musical performances, etc. happening on campus during any given week. I think some departments are less diligent about putting things on the calendar this semester (while logistics are dictated by COVID), but judging from my FACSTAFF email folder, there is a LOT still happening, albeit virtually.

I hope that is helpful to anyone considering Rhodes for your students!

1 Like

I have similar questions regarding safety and social scene. We are from New England but my son is interested has been accepted and financially it is the front runner. However, it is hard to compare to other schools since we have not been able to visit. I also have concerns about fraternities. Some other schools he is considering : Fordham, Union (NY), providence college. How does Rhodes compare? I appreciate any information I can get. Thank you

@lookingforward @bgtwinmom2021 @cptofthehouse
Do any of you have insight for Ferryp (above post)?

This site will help you compare colleges by level of fraternity participation:

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/most-frats

I cannot speak to Greek life at Rhodes, but I can speak to safety in Memphis in general. I am a native Memphian. I am 45. I have lived in Memphis for 34 years. While Memphis, historically, has been one of the worst cities for crime in the US, I have never personally been a victim of crime in the city of Memphis. That does not mean that the city, like other cities, is safe. There are areas of the city I would not go and areas of the city I would not go at certain times of the day. Just like any other city, being smart about your location and situationally aware is important. Memphis is not what is was in the mid-1970’s (I remember the late '70’s). Then downtown was not safe. Downtown Memphis has had a renaissance. While not as nice as many other cities, it is night and day different. If you know anything about Memphis, in my lifetime, the Peabody Hotel was sold on the courthouse steps in foreclosure (early '80’s), now it is…well, the Peabody. In the early '90’s a languishing sandbar was redeveloped and is now Harbortown. This does not mitigate the reality that areas of Memphis are severely economically depressed. COVID-19 will certainly increase those issues. Rather, it is merely the insight of a long-term resident.

3 Likes

Visited in late 2019 and from our perspective although the architecture of the buildings on campus are beyond gorgeous and the curriculum is quite strong, there was ZERO comfort level with the surrounding area which made it not even a consideration to apply. I remember thinking, what a bummer for it had so many positive attributes ! Maybe things have changed in last 12 mos and certainly people have different comfort levels so no judgement. Same can be said of U of Chicago (and we are FROM Chicago so it should not be surprising but it was) as safety just off campus is undoubtedly a concern. On the other hand, visiting USC we SHOULD have felt unsafe but that campus is so incredibly buttoned up security wise that she DID feel strangely “safe”. Who knows now though, 2020 was a rough year economically for most areas so I can’t imagine things improving yet. Tough times. Just look at crime stats.

2 Likes

Thank you for sharing your perspective. We visited UChic in October 2019 so I know what you are talking about as that was a concern for us there. I guess we will see how we feel about the area surrounding Rhodes when we visit next month. My D has friends at Rhodes living both on campus and off campus. Their comments were along the lines of always travel in groups when leaving campus after dark, but they did not feel unsafe as long as they were “smart.” But UChic students told us that too. Ha. As you said, different people have different comfort levels. It will be interesting to see how we feel once we see it live and in person.

4 Likes

I grew up in Oakland and work in an industry that takes me to Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco on a weekly basis and many US cities on a monthly basis…LA, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Nashville, Memphis, NYC, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia. This comment could be made about any college in those cities: "always travel in groups when leaving campus after dark, but they did not feel unsafe as long as they were “smart.” I would pay particular attention to the poster above who works at Rhodes and has twins applying there. I highly doubt she would have her kids go there if the campus was not safe! Colleges in or very near cities are great for the activities, cultural and internship opportunities. I hear the Rhodes partnership with St. Jude is amazing and not just for medical (know a student who did a marketing internship there).

4 Likes

I can’t speak to the other colleges, but about 30% of male Rhodes students are in fraternities, which means 70% of them are not. I think it is fair to say that a large percentage of campus parties are thrown by fraternities. The majority of those parties are open to the entire campus. So, the fraternities are visible on the social scene, but not in an exclusive way. If you are thinking big state school Greek life, Rhodes is definitely different from that. The members do not live in the houses (more like lodges), so that also means that a student’s status as Greek or non-Greek determines where they live. Most students have a mix of friends in different Greek organizations and with no Greek affiliation. A few years ago, Greek recruitment was moved from Fall to Spring semester, which gives students plenty of time to decide which, if any, Greek house suits them. Friendships are established long before recruitment begins.

In terms of safety, Memphis is not crime-free (nor is any community). There are areas of the city that are more of a concern when it comes to crime, and other areas that are thriving. Within a half mile of the campus are homes that sell for well over a million dollars, and others that are run down. Unfortunately, the drive to campus from the airport definitely takes you through some of the most economically distressed areas of the city and so for some people who fly in, that colors their experience. The campus is gated and campus safety officers are on duty 24/7. Due to the size of the student body, students get to know the officers. I feel very safe in the area and would have no concerns about sending my children to Rhodes. I am not saying no property crimes occur in the area. But, based on my over 30 years of association with Rhodes, I can honestly say that the picture painted by NoReason04 is not recognizable to me. I attended Rhodes. I work at the college (but NOT in Admission). So, I am trying to give the benefit of my experience while attempting to also be as objective as possible. As NoReason04 says, people have different comfort levels. If you are looking for bucolic rolling fields or suburbia, Rhodes is not for you. It is a city experience, with everything (good and bad) that entails.

Sorry to be long-winded, but I hope that helps. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have other questions. I am a mom of high school seniors, so I know how stressful this process can be, especially during COVID.

4 Likes

Everything that you have said about your experience at Rhodes and the safety in the near vicinity of campus has been what I have observed as I have spent a lot of time in the area. I grew up about 2 miles north of the airport and went to high school (Go Warriors) about 3 miles away from Rhodes campus. But I believe that you are downplaying the level of poverty and crime that affect Memphis (although I am probably overly cautious due to the the amount of poverty and crime that I have seen up close). No community is crime free, but Memphis crime (top 5 nationally in violent crimes year after year) and poverty stats (about a quarter of all Memphis residents live below the poverty line) speak for themselves. Rhodes provides a sturdy protective “bubble” for its student body, but it only extends so far. I personally would not have any real concerns if my kids attended Rhodes, but I would have asked them to travel in groups off campus at night and to just be aware of their surroundings. Rhodes College is a Memphis treasure and I believe it provides a world-class education for it student body.

4 Likes

Thanks for your reply! I don’t intend to downplay poverty or crime in Memphis. Both are serious issues. In my experience, Rhodes students are not frequently personally negatively impacted by either. The largest impact is probably that there are abundant opportunities for service, which a large percentage of the student body participates in. As much as anything, my comments probably reflect my conflicted feelings about the extent to which Rhodes students are insulated from the negative realities that are part of daily life for some of our neighbors - not that I wish life for Rhodes students was more dangerous, just that I wish life for all Memphians was as safe as it is for Rhodes students.

5 Likes