3 NY Colleges to Stop Asking About Arrest Record on Apps

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Three New York State colleges have decided to drop a question pertaining to students’ criminal records from their applications.

The colleges include St. John’s University, Five Towns College, and Dowling College.  A review from state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman discovered the three were looking into the criminal history of applicants through broad inquiries, writes Andy Thomason for The Chronicle, asking students to report ever having been “arrested or detained,” but not asking for further information as to whether those arrests ever led to convictions.

The review began after the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau received information from the Center for Community Alternatives about the application at St. John’s.  Suspicions arose concerning the unequal arrests by the police by race, which therefore put minority applicants at an unfair disadvantage.

“An arrest or police stop that did not result in a conviction, or a criminal record that was sealed or expunged, should not – indeed must not – be a standard question on a college application. Such a question can serve only to discourage New Yorkers from seeking a higher education,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “To the contrary, we need to provide opportunities to everyone seeking to better their futures. My office will work to ensure that all applicants receive fair treatment when applying to a college, a university, or for a job.”

In an agreement with the state, the colleges will stop asking prospective students about irrelevant information regarding the criminal justice system, including arrests that did not end in convictions and sealed, expunged or pardoned records.

They now may only discard applicants if their conviction “indicates that the individual poses a threat to public safety or property, or if the convictions are relevant to some aspect of the academic program or student responsibilities.”

Located in New York City, St. John’s is a Roman Catholic, private, co-ed university enrolling over 20,000 students.  Dowling College is a private institution with three Long Island campuses.  Located in Dix Hills, Long Island, Five Towns College is a for-profit college.

Student groups across the nation are angry with the situation, as some say too many questions are being asked, others say there is not enough, reports Inside Higher Ed.

The Common Application hopes to change all that by asking: “Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor, felony, or other crime? Note that you are not required to answer ‘yes’ to this question, or provide an explanation, if the criminal adjudication or conviction has been expunged, sealed, annulled, pardoned, destroyed, erased, impounded, or otherwise ordered by a court to be kept confidential.”