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campus security: [September 2010]

U. of Virginia Abandons Proposed Student Background Checks in Favor of Stricter Self-Disclosure
From "U. of Virginia Abandons Proposed Student Background Checks in Favor of Stricter Self-Disclosure" by Sara Lipka, The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 10, 2010 and "U.Va. to Ask About Arrests" by Brian McNeill, Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 7, 2010

The University of Virginia will now ask students if they have been arrested or convicted of a crime. The policy change is in response to the May 3 slaying of UVa student Yeardley Love. Her ex-boyfriend, fellow UVa lacrosse player George Huguely, has been charged in her death. Huguely had been arrested two years earlier after a violent and drunken confrontation with a female police officer. Huguely never notified university officials about his 2008 arrest, as required by a university policy enacted in 2004. Under the old system, students were asked to notify the university whenever they were arrested or convicted of a crime. Now, when students first log in to the university's system to access e-mail and course materials, they will be asked if they have been arrested or convicted of any criminal offense other than a minor traffic infraction not involving injury to others. The dean's office will follow up with any student who discloses an arrest or conviction under the new system. The university also will make clear that failing to disclose an arrest or conviction will lead to disciplinary action, up to interim suspension, said university spokeswoman Carol Wood. UVa's Division of Student Affairs is reaching out to other colleges and universities in Virginia, asking that they join the university in notifying one another when a student is arrested at another school, Wood said.

The university had previously considered running regular criminal background checks on all students and setting up a system in which state law enforcement agencies would notify the university of students' arrests. However, conducting regular, effective background checks on all students would have been logistically impossible, said Allen W. Groves, UVa's dean of students. "I'm not aware of an online database where I could run 21,000 students and get information in a reasonable way," he said. On legal and public safety grounds alone, experts at a wide variety of colleges have questioned proposals for comprehensive student background checks because the checks would cost too much, involve too much work, and possibly return unreliable information. The other proposal that the university had considered, a notification system in which state law enforcement agencies would report students' arrests to the university, involved similar logistical challenges. Such a system would have required a major investment to change national recordkeeping standards.

Even if these programs were feasible, many individuals are concerned that, even if the criminal history records were reliable, admissions and other university personnel are not well trained in interpreting them and understanding the nuances. Further, debates continue over the fairness of blocking educational opportunity from those who have paid their dues to society, and pose no risk to fellow students and university personnel.
 

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