What Took So Long for University Faculty Background Checks?

By Michael Klazema on 4/24/2013

While it is a good thing that background checks for faculty members seem to have arrived, it is a good question to ask why they actually took as long as they did. In a move that should have arrived a long time ago, Duke University in North Carolina will soon require that people looking to become part of their faculty take mandatory criminal checks. It was reported recently that the administration department at the university is looking into getting security checks for current members of the faculty as well, which is the same type of test given to new hires ever since the year 1980.

Even members of the faculty and staff seem to agree that the background checks may be long overdue. Duke Academic Council’s chair Susan Lozier seems to agree. While speaking to the council, Lozier articulated that there really is no reason why the checks should not be applied to all members of the faculty. That could mean every faculty member the university would hire would get the same check into their background that the janitorial staff would get.

Of course, it has not been too long since universities around the country held faculty at a higher standard than everyone else in their staff. In fact, as recently as 2008, David Evans from the Oklahoma City University defended special treatment for the faculty staff. While writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, he called the possibility of background checks “insulting” and “degrading” to those with advanced degrees.

Though background checks are becoming more common in the job market for most professions, there is still some resistance from the different universities throughout the country. In November of 2012 at the Florida Gulf Coast University, Win Everham, who is a professor of environmental studies, asked about the effectiveness of checks in an article written for the Eagle News. The question posed was whether the policy was smart or if it was a way to spend money “to make us think we are more safe?” In the article, another professor endorsed the fingerprinting of students as an alternative.

In Durham, North Carolina however, those asked seem to be fine with the idea (or at least resigned to it) and feel that a DWI in a background check should disqualify someone to work as a bus driver for the university. Likewise, it could be an embarrassment for the university to hire someone with a previous drug conviction to work at the university’s chemistry labs. This seems to make all the sense in the world, and even those who would otherwise oppose the new rules are inclined to agree.

Duke’s provost, Peter Lange, does not foresee the new policies for background checks scaring new people who want to join the faculty away. This is because he expects the number of cases in which someone would show up with a criminal past would be very close to zero. Kyle Cavanaugh, who is the VP for Duke’s administration, agrees that the number would be small, but also points out that “in today’s environment, how can we not do this?” The hope is that the checks will go forward as per the recommendation.

Like Duke, most universities will be interested in the criminal histories of applicants. By partnering with, they can use a US OneSEARCH product, which has access to more than 450 million criminal records nationwide. They can also take a look at performing an Education Verification, to make sure potential faculty members have the qualifications they calim to teach their respective disciplines.

About - - a founding member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and cofounder of the Expungement Clearinghouse - serves thousands of customers nationwide, from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies by providing comprehensive screening services. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with an Eastern Operations Center in Chapin, S.C., is home to one of the largest online criminal conviction databases in the industry. For more information about backgroundchecks’ offerings, please visit



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