The Daily Illini

Editorial: Covering bases through background checks

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

When applying for a new job, it’s common practice to have to go through a background check if someone receives a position.

However, members of the Academic Senate at the University are debating the new background check policy that the Board of Trustees approved in September.

The policy essentially permits the University to conduct background checks for all University employees.

All new hires will be asked to undergo a background check upon receiving a job offer. Candidates can decline a background check but it is unknown what that might indicate to the University or how it will impact the committee’s viewpoint.

Each background check is estimated to cost $45, and according to Maureen Parks, associate vice president for the University’s Human Resources policy, the total cost for this year is estimated to reach $183,285.

The policy has yet to be implemented after senate members voted to push implementation back until Nov. 1.

The hiring of adjunct lecturer James Kilgore is a reassuring reminder that the campus is willing to hire members with criminal backgrounds; we can see that the University is still open to the idea of hiring people with criminal backgrounds, as long as they can show they’ve been reformed.

Kilgore was up front in his interview and let the University know his past beforehand, however, not all potential employees will be that honest, and a background check may be the only way to ensure we are hiring honest candidates who will be safe additions to the University.

Hiring can’t be slowed down on a campus of our size, so the policy needs to implemented before the spring semester. And we aren’t even close to being one of the first universities within the Big Ten to institute a policy like this — in fact, we are one of the last to do so.

However, this policy leaves some questions unanswered specifically regarding its timing, and these are all questions we need answered in order to ensure the policy is effective. We don’t want to intimidate people who may want to apply for jobs at the University, but we want to put student safety at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

The first thing that needs clarification is the general timeline of the background checks. General Information Services will conduct the checks and is expected to report back their findings in three to five business days. But the overall time to review the completed background checks seems too short, and doesn’t seem to allow time for a person with a criminal record to defend themselves to the University.

If a person needs to speak about something that was found in the report or send in separate documents, we wonder how the committee will be able to properly review in such a short period of time to make a timely decision on potential employees.

Also, associate professor Teresa Barnes raised the question of whether the committee will make a final decision on a candidate with a criminal conviction, or whether the committee will simply make recommendations to Interim Provost Edward Feser.

During Monday’s meeting, Feser took the right approach by stating the policy will be open for revisions throughout the course of its implementation.

Ultimately, time will tell whether these revisions will be heard and taken into account, but overall this policy is something we should be open to — especially when other universities are doing the same. Our campus should be open and fostering, but safety and honesty still need to play large parts in creating that environment.

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