Comment on ‘Application to U changes for better’

by Chuck Turchick

The reason for having a criminal background question on the application form is murky at best. The University of Minnesota claims the goal is to have a safer campus. I have written to the Office of Admissions, the Office for Equity and Diversity, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and the Senior Vice
President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson, asking if anyone knows of any studies showing this makes for a safer campus.
 
For example, are there any studies that compare campus crime rates before and after such questions were included on the application? Are there studies that compare crime rates with the rates on campuses in the same vicinity that do not ask these questions? 
 
No one can cite such a study. One would think an institution of higher education would base its policies on evidence rather than assumptions or hunches, but apparently that’s not the case when it comes to policies based on hyped-up fears of “criminals.”
 
It may well be that people who are convicted of felonies, spend time in prison and then enroll in college have a lower crime rate than does the general population. In this case, we should be concerned about those who have never been convicted of a felony.
 
Moreover, if this is really about creating a safer campus, why doesn’t the University require that all colleges ask such a question? The Graduate School, for example, makes no such inquiry, nor does the school I’m enrolled in, the College of Continuing Education. As someone who has been convicted of a felony, I’ve never had to
answer such a question. Be careful whom you sit next to in your next class. You never know.
 
Don’t be fooled. These questions are more about the school trying to reassure admitted students’ parents or protect itself against some presumed legal liability than really making the campus safer.