Reconsidering Criminal Records

Article excerpt

A SURVEY ASSESSING THE USE AND NECESSITY OF CRIMINAL HISTORIES in the admissions process has resulted in a report that states the role of such information should be reconsidered and not used in admissions decisions. The report is based on a comprehensive 59-question survey sent to 273 institutions by the Center for Community Alternatives, in collaboration with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Sixty-four percent of respondents reported that their admissions applications require students to disclose their criminal histories.

There has been no concrete link established between having a criminal record and posing a safety threat on campus, and there is an inherent racial discrimination involved in requiring students to provide information on criminal records, the report notes. "What we hope comes from this report is for administrators to recognize the huge disproportionate level of criminal records falling on the African American population," says co-author Alan Rosenthal, who is co-director of justice strategies for the Center for Community Alternatives. Typical deans are not criminologists or sociologists. "They're not expected to have this disparity on the forefront of their minds so it has all these unintended consequences of undermining commitments to diversity," Rosenthal says.

About 20 percent of colleges and universities perform background checks, usually through a private company. Other universities do not require disclosure or only require students seeking admissions to certain programs such as health-related degrees to provide this information. …


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