After discovering that they had admitted Level II and Level III sex offenders, the University of Washington (UW) officials are now debating whether they should include criminal background checks on their college applications. Vice provost of UW Eric Godfrey states, “We have a high obligation to ensure that this campus is safe.” If UW does include criminal background questions on its application, it will join around 64 percent of other schools in the nation.
Godfrey notes that the disclosure of a criminal past will not automatically disqualify an applicant from being granted admission to the college. Only those who note a violent crime or a high-level sex offense would potentially be weeded out. Even then, a group of mental and health experts as well as the police would evaluate applicants. Those who are deemed too unstable will be denied admission to the university. The ACLU will also take a close look at any decision about applicants getting accepted or denied based on the criminal background check. The organization noted that a person’s criminal record “does not mean that he or she should be denied the opportunity of a college education. Nor does a record alone mean that a person will be a safety problem on campus.” Among current students, the idea of implementing these criminal background questions is split in half. Some students agree with these measures, while others believe that it could keep talented student from receiving an education. Godfrey notes that the decision is a difficult one as the college wants to keep the campus safe but does not want to deny anyone an education. The other issue UW will have to deal with is the fact that the college is state-funded, which could mean potential legal liability and discrimination lawsuits if they deny an applicant admission because of the criminal history.
As of 2012, the incidents of on campus violence have compelled many parents of students and colleges to call for background checks on applicants. As stated previously, around 64 percent of colleges have a section in the application that asks potential students to divulge any criminal history. Around half of these colleges actually follow up on the information they receive. A smaller amount, around 7 percent of colleges, performs actual criminal background checks on all applicants. Most colleges prefer to keep the criminal history on the applications, because checking criminal history records of all the applicants would be a useless expense for universities. Even if there was some useful information, college officials cannot control human behavior. Aside from the expense, many colleges avoid detailed criminal history records, as they do not want to become embroiled in the middle of a discrimination lawsuit. UW is discussing the pros and cons of adding this new measure to protect the students on their campus. Should they decide to move forward with the decision, the criminal history questions will appear on their Fall 2014 applications.
When it comes to either employee or students applications, organizations who decide to use background screening need to use a professional and reputable company like backgroundchecks.com. This way, although more than 400 million criminal records across the state would be searched with tools like US OneSEARCH, they could be sure that the records are secure and the staff will only release the appropriate information to officials. Colleges might also be interested in using the Reference Verification tool, in order to make sure the students they are admitting have the personal qualities described on their applications.
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Author: Michael Klazema
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments