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UW will use the Common Application program which is also used at Western Washington University, Eastern Washington University and 488 other U.S. colleges. (MyNorthest.com Photo/File)

A sex offender could be sitting next to your UW student

Prospective students applying to the University of Washington in 2014 will be asked for more than an answer to their essay questions. They'll also be asked if they have a violent criminal past, or are a convicted sex offender.

The UW will now be use something similar to the Common Application process, following in the steps of Western Washington University, Eastern Washington University, and 488 other U.S. colleges.

Just because someone with a criminal past checks yes on the box on the application admitting their criminal past doesn't mean they will be denied admission.

Those applicants would first have the opportunity to plea their case before a committee made up of faculty and staff with expertise in diversity, criminal justice and campus safety, among other focuses. They'll also have the opportunity to provide letters of recommendation for their consideration.

But Ken Schram said on the Luke Burbank Show that giving a committee the opportunity to deny admission based on their past treads down a dangerous path. "There is always the threat of litigation," he said.

If one of these applicants does pose a threat and re-offends, Schram said the UW opens itself up for a lawsuit for admitting that student in the first place.

Imagining he were on the committee, Schram said, "I'd like to let this person in, but the risk doesn't outweigh the benefits. Then that person will be denied."

The UW enrolled two sex offenders last year, before asking applicants about offenses on their application. Those two Level 3 sex offenders, out of about 42,000 students, didn't cause any problems, according to UW police.

Despite the approval to move forward on screening students with criminal histories, at least 3,700 people signed a petition asking the UW to reconsider the policy change.

Read more:
Who wants the UW to allow students with criminal pasts

An earlier version of this story said that UW was using the Common Application. The UW will be using a much more limited form and will only ask about violent felonies and sex offenses.

Alyssa Kleven, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Alyssa Kleven is an editor and content producer at MyNorthwest.com. She enjoys doting over her adorable dachshund Winnie - named for Arcade Fire front-man Win Butler.
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