Should Colleges Perform Criminal Background Checks?

Should Colleges Perform Criminal Background Checks?

A new survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers reveals that two-thirds of colleges take into account applicants' criminal pasts.

Of the colleges that ask for criminal or disciplinary histories, most do so on applications for admission. The Common Application, for example, includes questions about convictions for any felonies or misdemeanors, as well as academic or behavioral misconduct at any educational institution. Colleges are particularly concerned by violent crimes and those related to alcohol, drugs, or sex, according to the survey, which polled about 250 institutions.

Still, only 38 percent of admissions staffs receive training on interpreting criminal records, Mr. Nassirian said. "The dean of enrollment doesn't know diddly."

The Washington Post points to the recent case of George Huguely as a loophole in the "self-disclosure" model of background checks, in which the student can choose whether or not to report their past indsicretions. Huguely, a University of Virginia student, allegedly murdered his ex-girlfriend and fellow UVA student Yeardley Love, in May. Though he had a criminal past and was required by law to report it to the school, he slipped through the cracks between the law's policy for reporting criminal history and the school's enforcement of that policy.

According to Inside Higher Ed, Stetson University Vice President and College of Law Dean Darby Dickerson said that "implementing background checks as part of the admissions process is not a panacea," but can be "part of a more comprehensive campus safety" procedure.

What do you think? Should colleges enforce background checks? Weigh in below.

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