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University of Illinois Gives One-Year Report on Background Check Policy

By Michael Klazema on 1/23/2017
Last year, the University of Illinois expanded its background check policy. Before the expansion, the university was only screening applicants who would be working “sensitive” jobs, or positions that involved working with children, money, or hospital patients. After the expansion, reports explain, the university began running checks on virtually all its new hires.

One year into the expanded background check policy, the University of Illinois has released a “progress report” to assess the effectiveness of the policy throughout its first 365 days. Per a report from The News-Gazette—a newspaper based in Central Illinois—the report showed that U of I spent $465,500 to run 11,815 background checks during the first year of the policy. Those numbers reflect all the screenings that the university ran at its three campuses.

Of the 11,815 checks that the university conducted, 11 resulted in the rescindment of job offers (U of I only runs background checks on applicants who have been extended a conditional offer of employment). As the News-Gazette article noted, that number means that the University of Illinois found considerable red flags for 0.01% of its hires. Of the 11 individuals who had their employment offers rescinded, one was applying for a faculty position. The others, the News-Gazette says, were applying for “civil service or other positions.”

University trustees predicted that the low ratio of rescinded offers to total background checks would not sit well with taxpayers—especially given the nearly-half-a-million-dollar price tag. Per coverage, trustees stressed that not running these checks and missing one of those 11 red flags could have easily been more expensive.

Without giving names of applicants or identifying the jobs they were competing for, one trustee noted that there were people with “child endangerment or weapons charges” who were applying to jobs that involved contact with children. The trustee classified these red flags as “nontrivial issues,” and suggested that $465,000 was a small price to pay to protect students and safeguard the university from potential lawsuits.

Initially, the new U of I background check policy received a considerable amount of pushback from faculty members, coverage indicates. The chief argument was reportedly that the background checks were an invasion of privacy and would discourage applicants from seeking employment with the university. While the total number of applications received by the university was down 2% compared to last year, issues with the state budget also meant that fewer jobs were available, coverage explained.

Sources: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2017-01-19/11-job-offers-pulled-first-year-ui-background-checks.html

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