Leaders for Welcome Week put to the test

Some of the 700 applicants to be Welcome Week leaders were rejected because of background checks.

Holly Miller

When Tyler Jones, a political science junior, applied to be a Welcome Week leader this spring, he thought he would pass the process with flying colors.

Instead, Jones, who considers himself a strong leader involved on campus, received an e-mail last week saying he wouldn’t be able to participate in the program. The reason: two alcohol violations in the residence hall his first year at the University.

“All they said is they were going to look into our background and see if we had any major violations or large issues,” he said. “I didn’t think being written up freshman year would be a major violation.”

More than 700 students applied for 400 Welcome Week leader positions, part of Orientation & First-year Programs, but along with completing the paperwork, the applicants must pass a background check to get the job.

Welcome Week, a new six-day, on-campus program, will serve as an extension to the first-year orientation held in the past, covering topics from academic success to personal involvement on campus.

In searching for Welcome Week leaders, Beth Lingren Clark, director of OFYP, said her program wants “ideal leaders who make sound decisions.”

“We’re looking for the best of the best in student leaders. We want them to be able to work with others, communicate effectively, to be mature, handle public relations and have good judgment,” she said. “We need excellent role models – someone who can inspire other new students to enjoy their experience and make the most of it.”

Checking academic and judicial standing with the University, Lingren Clark said, is one way to assess whether the candidates meet these requirements.

Applicants had to pass background checks from Housing and Residential Life Judicial Affairs and the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, as well as maintain a minimum 2.3 GPA, Lingren Clark said.

Although she said the process is not yet complete because of the many applicants, some students have been notified of their ineligibility for the program.

“We sent the list and they made the recommendations back to us,” Lingren Clark said. “We don’t know the type of violations they were.”

Katie Eichele, coordinator of Residential Life Judicial Affairs, said her office was asked to conduct checks on the applicants and report back all students who were on probation with the University as of Jan. 1 or those with an extensive judicial history with the University.

She said there are two types of probation: Type A probation means any further violation may result in a student’s housing being in jeopardy. Type B probation means any further violation will result in contract termination.

There are several sanctions students may receive after being written up for an incident, but the disciplinary action taken depends on the individual incident, Eichele said. The most common incidents cited, she said, are alcohol violations.

Eichele said while students may not realize they’re still on probation after leaving the residence halls, this is nothing new in the business world.

“The choices that (students) make today may really impact their success and opportunities for the future,” she said. “A lot of different organizations and jobs, whether they are state and federal jobs, do background checks.”

Jones said he still believes it is “ridiculous” to be punished for an incident that occurred two years ago, especially something “as minor as an alcohol violation.”

He said he had hoped he’d be able to help new students learn from his own mistake, which he won’t get the chance to do now.

“I guarantee other leaders have done it, they just didn’t get caught,” he said. “I feel I am a good leader on campus and they are missing out on opportunities to have great leaders.”

Lingren Clark said she is confident in the process, and the ultimate goal of the program is to select the best leaders for incoming students.

“I think it goes back to if you want the most ideal role model for the University,” she said. “If students have gotten in trouble multiple times with the University, or they may not have the minimum GPA, then I think they may need to be focusing their energy in other places and not being involved at the leadership level.”