Inquiries About Applicants' Criminal Pasts Do Not Make Campuses Safer, Study Shows

Inquiries About Applicants' Criminal Pasts Do Not Make Campuses Safer, Study Shows

April 23, 2013

A new study shows that college inquiries about prospective students' criminal pasts do little to keep campuses safer. Researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health gauged students' pre-college behavior by reviewing their answers to questions on the students' college applications about their criminal histories, including whether they had been convicted of crimes, taken responsibility for a crime, or had criminal charges pending at the time of their application, excluding minor traffic offenses. They then discerned on-campus misconduct by examining disciplinary records in the dean's office and also surveying a random sample of the 6,972 graduating seniors in 2010 and 2011 about misconduct before and during college. Students who had a history of pre-college criminal behavior were likelier than other students to engage in college misconduct, the researchers found. However, the methods that colleges use to screen for those behaviors (such as questionnaires and criminal background checks) are not effective at identifying or preventing misbehavior in college. The study suggests that colleges should exercise caution when using tools to screen prospective applicants, especially given inequity in how the criminal justice system works.

No Crime in Asking
Doug Lederman
Inside Higher Ed
April 18, 2013

Student Safety