For the first time, the University of Washington will ask student applicants if they have a criminal history.
Have you ever been convicted of a violent felony offense? Are any such charges pending? Are you a registered sex offender? Those kinds of questions will be on applications beginning with the 2014 school year.
A “yes” answer could result in a student being passed over for admission to the UW.
The change for the UW follows a revelation by The Seattle Times last year that two level-three sex offenders, convicted of molesting and raping children, were enrolled at the school.
Those two sex offender, out of about 42,000 students in the past school year, didn’t cause any problems, according to UW police.
Officers also say the few crimes that do occur on campus are generally committed by non-students.
Parents may applaud the idea of screening students with criminal histories, thinking it’s a nod toward safety, but at least 3,700 people have signed a petition asking the UW to reconsider the policy change.
Many are UW professors.
“I am a professor at UW and believe that criminal history should not factor in to admissions decisions; it fosters discrimination and unequal access to public education,” says Johanna Crane.
Faculty member Sarah Dowling says, “I find it deplorable that asking applicants for their criminal history record would even be considered.”
A few are concerned about how this policy will make the UW look.
“Education should be about learning and growing, not prejudice and hindrance,” says Christian Harris, who says the change will hurt the UW’s reputation. “There are ways to make a campus both safe and inclusive, but this policy seems to do neither.”
“Anyone industrious enough to apply and want to attend the university, is very serious about bettering themselves, and thus far less likely to cause anymore trouble than someone without such a record,” says Richard Drumm of Sammamish.
John Hoffman, from White Plains, New York even has a stake in this issue when he writes, “As a member of a community that is over-policed, and criminalized, this would prevent faces like mine from being a part of your institution.”
The petition seeks to stop the UW from including criminal history questions on undergrad applications for the 2014-15 school year.
Those questions are already included in the transfer and online degree applications for the upcoming 2013-2014 school year.
By LINDA THOMAS