U boosts new hire inspection

A heightened background check policy began this summer.

U boosts new hire inspection

Roy Aker

Penn State University’s for­mer assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was tried for child sexual abuse, col­leges nationwide, including the University of Minne­sota, are making changes to their background check policies.

The University imple­mented a revised, system-wide background check policy Aug. 1, expanding checks to all new hires, fac­ulty members changing po­sitions, and volunteers who interact with minors in Uni­versity-affiliated programs. The policy won’t include new background checks on current staff positions.

General Counsel Wil­liam Donohue said the poli­cy has been in the works for nearly a year.

More than 200,000 mi­nors visit University cam­puses each year, according to a University report.

“The question is,” Dono­hue said, “if bad things are go­ing to happen to kids on cam­pus, how do you prevent it?”

Laura Negrini, associ­ate director of the Office of Human Resources, said the new policy includes a social security number trace and a federal criminal background check. It also requires review of the sex offender registry and county criminal records.

Negrini said individu­als will still have the right to receive the results of their background checks and veri­fications and to dispute the in­formation contained in them.

“We’re implementing this new background check pol­icy and verification process to ensure more consistency system-wide,” she said.

People in volunteer posi­tions and most student em­ployees weren’t required to undergo a background check in the past, but they now will if their job puts them in direct contact with minors — a new stipulation in the policy.

Donohue said it’s impor­tant for employees on campus — even those who may not be faculty members — to still have a background check.

“That doesn’t mean all bad things will not happen,” he said, “but it’s at least one thing to prevent it.”

President Eric Kaler cre­ated the Work Group on the Safety of Minors in Novem­ber 2012 to develop a policy for improving the safety of minors on campus and in University programs. It presented recommendations to the Board of Regents in March.

The group then drafted the University Safety of Mi­nors policy, which was adopt­ed by a regent vote in June.

Negrini said OHR’s new background check policy aligns with the Safety of Mi­nors policy.

Although OHR will assess each individual background check, the information will be collected by a new vendor, General Information Services — a national corporation that specializes in background screening.

Negrini said in an email that the new background checks will cost $25 each — down from $40 each with se­lection of the new vendor.

The University is among other schools across the na­tion that are making changes to their background check policies.

Carl Marziali, a spokes­man for the University of Southern California, said the school also recently changed how it does background checks.

He said USC policy has been extended to volunteers or non-professor employees who work with minors — similar to the University’s change.

The University work group’s report said, “… with respect to minors, we do not have an extensive history of criminal, sexual conduct against children at the Univer­sity of Minnesota.”

Of the 63 reported sexual offenses in the last 10 years on the Twin Cities campus, three involved victims un­der age 18, according to a presentation this spring by University police Chief Greg Hestness.

Only one of these cases, in 2006, resulted in a charge and conviction, according to the work group’s report. Af­ter investigation, the other two cases didn’t result in charges.