Guest Blogger: Jane Smith
The college admissions process is definitely not simple. Most institutions receive thousands of applications at the beginning of every academic term, and they have to weed through each application to try to find the best possible students for admission. Admissions officers take into consideration a wide range of factors during the selection process. Things like grades, test scores, difficulty of courses, previous college experience, extracurricular activities, admissions essays, and future goals always factor largely into the decision, and admissions officers must check and double check this information. One thing, though, that could completely re-define how a student is perceived by admissions and the rest of the college community is largely overlooked by admissions officers. The presence of criminal activity in an applicant’s past is something not typically verified by admissions officers, and this can make the difference between a student who adds a positive contribution to the campus environment and one who could pose a danger.
It may seem a little invasive to conduct background checks on potential college students, or require this information along with an application packet, but with ongoing occurrences of mass shootings and other violence on college campuses, the question as to whether background checks are necessary does not seem out of line.
Extreme violence on college campuses is most definitely on the rise and occurring in alarming numbers. According to a recent study, out of 272 recorded incidents of mass violence on college campuses from 1909 to 2008, 75 percent of those occurred after 1980, with huge jumps in the 1990s and 2000s. The majority of offenders in these crimes were men. But, unfortunately, as of late, data is beginning to show that violent incidents are in no way restricted to only male students. Instances of violence between or propagated by females is also on the rise.
What’s unfortunate for any student thinking of attending a college or university in the coming years is the fact that, even with clear data demonstrating an increase in on-campus violent crime, there seems to be no increase in screening for past criminal activity before admitting college freshmen.
Some of latest data indicates that only 4 percent of all U.S. college and universities do any form of criminal background checks on incoming students. Some schools require self-disclosure of past crimes, but 36 percent don’t even require that. Compare that with the fact that 21 percent of institutions in 2007 used social networking sites to screen applicants, and it seems like the priorities of admissions divisions are a little off.
With about one out of every 29 students enrolled in college having a previous criminal record, 10 percent of those being sexual abuse or assault convictions, an argument for higher security in college admissions can most definitely be made.
Is it time for every college and university to require background checks before admitting students, or does that take the issue too far? Regardless, the issue of safety on college campuses will continue to be a prevalent one as we enter the new millennium.