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The Daily Illini

University hides information regarding criminal records

Saketh Vasamsetti, Columnist

The University boasted over 43,000 students in 2014. Over 32,000 of these students were undergraduates and a little over 11,000 were graduate students. Those numbers have since grown in the past three years.

A simple walk through the Main Quad can display the University’s rich diversity of students of all types of backgrounds; however, there is a certain demographic that is seldom ever mentioned: the number of undergraduate or graduate students who have been convicted felons.

General statistics about the University can be found on its website and various other places; however, statistics on the number of former convicted felons who have been admitted to the University are not available to the public. Without the display of such information, it gives the impression that the University does not encourage ex-felons to pursue higher educations.

Publicizing statistics regarding the number of students that have been admitted with a criminal history will be more beneficial for the University than hiding it. If that percentage is fairly high, it will be seen as respectful and honorable for such a highly esteemed University to provide second chances for people to better themselves. If the number is low, the University will know that their efforts should be strengthened and that they should in fact broaden their selection process to include people who have been less fortunate in their lives.

In an article written by the Center for Community Alternative regarding the use of criminal records in the college admission process, 55 percent of the schools surveyed reported that they collect and use criminal justice information, while 16.5 percent said they collect it but do not use it. The University falls into neither of those categories.

The center noted that the schools’ responses vary by their “sector and level” and reported that “private and four-year schools being much more likely to consider criminal history in the admissions decision than their public and two-year counterparts.”

Since the University does require students to self-report their criminal backgrounds, the information is in fact used somehow.

Given the lack of information provided publicly, it is unclear how the information is used and whether or not reviewing one’s criminal background is done solely through the admissions office.

A measly 6 percent of the schools that responded in the center’s article said that their process of handling applicants with and without criminal records is the same. The rest of the schools reported having various personnel involved in order to review the records.

The Atlantic writer Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, wrote about a new campaign called “Ban the Box” that is looking to get rid of the question that asks for applicants to report past conviction. Lantigua-Williams explains that “campus officials say the background question helps them learn as much as possible about prospective students,” and later states that it makes sure “everyone on campus is safe.”

However, Lantigua-Williams reports that others see the question as too daunting and that it turns away many people with past convictions.

Without resources for people with criminal histories to view, like information on how the University reviews their criminal records, many might not even apply due to the belief that they have no chance whatsoever.

Everyone should have the opportunity to receive a proper education, even if he or she has been to jail at one point. A large majority of careers in this country demand higher educations, but if ex-convicts are turned away before being given a chance, they will have no choice but  to continue to live through poverty and crime.

People who have been convicted of felonies will naturally be more likely to be charged again and return to prison. However, with a higher education they will have turned a new leaf and can work toward becoming a better citizen not only for the communities they are a part of, but for the entire nation.

Saketh is a freshman in DGS.

ssv2@dailyillini.com

 

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