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Sep 17 2016
by Madeleine Williamson

This University System Won’t Require Applicants To Disclose Felony Convictions

By Madeleine Williamson - Sep 17 2016

There are a lot of things students want on their college applications. Felony convictions aren’t one of them. And soon, applicants to over 60 campuses in New York state won’t have to. The State University of New York applicants won’t have to provide this information, Inside Higher Ed reported Thursday.

This Wednesday, SUNY’s board voted to remove the question on prior convictions from applications. There's just one caveat. Students will need to disclose convictions if they want to live on campus or study abroad.

Taking the felony question off applications has support from the “Ban the Box” movement. (It's named for the “box” students check to disclose prior convictions.) Proponents say it could encourage more ex-convicts to apply to college. This may seem like a bad idea. But activists point out that many people are wrongly convicted or later reform.

This May, President Obama even suggested colleges reevaluate how they ask about felony convictions. 

 “Today’s policy revision is a milestone achievement for SUNY, one that positions our university system as a leader in what has become a national movement to expand access and educational opportunity for individuals with a felony history,” SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said.

But not everyone’s happy with SUNY “banning the box.” At first, the committee considered requiring those convicted of sexual assault to disclose this. But others felt the decision should be all-or-nothing. According to their Wednesday decision, applicants won’t need to disclose any felony convictions.

Some worry that this could worsen sexual violence on campus. After all, over 300,000 people apply to SUNY’s four-year colleges each year. 

“The policy seems to say no matter what your criminal act, you are OK to be a student on campus. I would have preferred evidence from the criminal justice system that felons who committed acts of violence were felt to be rehabilitated,” board member Ronald G. Ehrenberg said.

While some are concerned about safety on campus, others are welcoming the opportunity and second chances for people who want to learn.

Lead image credit: John Marino on Flickr Creative Commons.

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Madeleine Williamson - DePaul University

Madeleine Williamson is a freshman at DePaul University majoring in journalism and minoring in political science and Spanish. She loves tea, stationery and exploring her new hometown of Chicago.

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