Background Checks are a perfect way to find out everything you need to know about an individual. In 2004, murdered student Jessica Faulkner was a student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The killer had a violent history and it was believed that Jessica’s murder could have been prevented. The Faulkners filed a lawsuit against the system and it became mandatory for the 16 colleges in the state to conduct a criminal background check on any students where a ‘red flag’ is raised during their application. Other states followed, now quite common for a background check to be part of the admissions system.
Background Checks on University Students
Students entering a clinical profession should undergo a background check. However, there remains significant debate about the appropriateness of these checks across the board. Additionally, most schools have a question surrounding criminal background on their standard application.
- In cases of self-reporting, the reported issues are usually so minor that the admission board will still approve the application.
- The American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) reported 60% of colleges to take criminal history into consideration.
- The AACRAO has also not seen any evidence of conducting background checks making school campuses safer.
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The advantages of conducting a background check include the fact that:
- It may help to prevent situations such as the University of North Carolina at Wilmington murder or the massacre at Virginia Tech. In April 2007 where 32 students and faculty lost their lives and a further 25 encountered injuries.
- It protects a school from lawsuits while also maintaining its reputation.
The disadvantages of conducting a background check include the fact that:
- Many schools do not have formal policies and procedures in place and those that do rarely review them for consistency and fairness.
- Since there are no federal or state laws that mandate the background check, students not admitted may sue.
- Incoming high school students, in particular, are highly unlikely to have a criminal background and, if they do, it is likely to have been due to a minor mistake, which perhaps should not impact their educational future to such a degree.
- Background checks are a form of discrimination since a past criminal history does not necessarily mean recidivism as well.
Should University Students Undergo Background Checks?
Clearly, there are complex issues involved when it comes to background checks on university students. Many agree that the background checks are apart of a greater whole. Students have individual rights, but it is equally important to consider legal risks and, obviously, overall campus safety. Rather, it should be part of a well-defined policy that considers the various eventualities as well.
The University of North Carolina stated that they conduct self-reporting. They have also found that, out of those students for whom they requested a background check, 50% pulled out of the application process, even though those that do have the check completed were cleared in 92% of cases.
They feel that 50% of people who pull out of the application process because of their history may not have had to do so. That could have disastrous consequences overall.