Friday, May 6, 2016

Should colleges and universities be prohibited from asking applicants about criminal backgrounds?

This question was inspired by this Atlantic article by Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, titled When a Classmate Is a Former Inmate, discussing how institutions of higher learning have created barriers to education for people with criminal backgrounds. While administrators' concern for their campuses' safety is commendable, some university policies do not appear to serve the purpose for which they were intended--and, in fact, may not even address an actual threat.

Lantigua-Williams writes:

These days, American colleges are eager to boast about their number of women enrollees, their percentage of ethnic minorities, even their ratio of low-income students. They’re very proud of their inclusiveness and outreach. But many colleges are mum when it comes to the students on their campuses with criminal records.


To be fair, it’s a very delicate issue, one that requires reassuring students and parents that safety has not been compromised while also ensuring that some students with records are not singled out or treated differently. Finding that balance has proved elusive for some colleges, but others have successfully untangled the complexities created by this increasingly common phenomenon. At hundreds of colleges, students have to disclose any criminal history during the admissions process and may be prescreened by a special committee... At some schools, a formerly incarcerated student’s movements on campus and his or her access to facilities may be restricted. At a number of colleges and universities, students who have committed certain crimes may be jointly monitored by campus authorities and state officials. The measures are set up based on state requirements, school policy, and the institution’s comfort level.


But, in some instances, there are situations that are entirely out of a school’s control. Students with criminal records who want to apply for certain professional programs often hit dead-ends. “People are not rejected solely based on having a criminal record but can end up being excluded from certain academic programs that do not allow those with criminal histories to work in the field,” said Jason Ebbeling, executive director of the Student Success Center at Connecticut State Colleges & Universities. Due to licensure requirements or clinical-rotation guidelines, future teachers, nurses, and others who might work in sensitive areas are not allowed to have past criminal histories.


“Why is someone in a classroom with a record more dangerous than someone sitting next to me in a movie theater or a restaurant?” asked Barmak Nassirian during my conversation with him. Nassirian has worked in higher education for 25 years and is the director of policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “People do have a responsibility for maintaining safe campuses, I don’t dismiss that.” But he fervently opposes asking students to divulge the information, considering it as part of admissions, and subsequently monitoring students once on campus. “We essentially condemn people to a life of underemployment and poverty if we deny them the one medicine that actually cures criminal behavior: education.”...


College administrators, according to several of the experts I spoke to, try to put in place as many mechanisms and safety precautions as possible to reinforce how safe their campuses are, especially for the peace of mind of prospective families. And yet, there are no statistically valid relationships between asking about criminal histories, the ratio of such students on campus, and the incidences of campus crime. One glaring example of this is sexual assault, one of the most common campus crimes...


Educators want to welcome and serve qualified students. But they are also charged with maintaining safe and conducive atmospheres for learning. And so, for the student with a criminal background who wants an education, it can seem like there is no easy way around having a record—stigmatization now or dismissal later.

May 6, 2016 in Theories of Punishment, Universities and Colleges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights files statement supporting UT-Austin's affirmative action program

Soon, SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in Fisher v . University of Texas at Austin II over whether the University of Texas's admission plan is constitutional. Texas residents who finished in the top 10% of their high school class are admitted automatically. This accounts for 80% of admissions. For the remaining 20% of applicants, the university uses a long list of factors in making a determination, one of which is race. Proponents claim that UT's policy is necessary to achieve the legitimate aim of promoting institutional diversity. Opponents, however, allege that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the DownloadFourteenth Amendment arguing that the goal of diversity can be achieved without taking race into account, and by using race, UT is unfairly advantaging minority students. 

Today, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announced its support for UT's policy. The commission states in part: 

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights believes that the University’s admissions policy is indeed narrowly tailored to serve the compelling interest of securing the educational benefits of a diverse student body. Accordingly, the 5th Circuit’s determination that the University’s admissions process does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment should be affirmed...


Throughout its history, the Commission has expressed its strong belief in the benefits of diversity in educational settings. In our 1975 report Twenty Years After Brown: Equality of Educational Opportunity, the Commission found it appropriate “to provide the equal educational opportunity that segregation inherently denies and to permit all pupils to develop the understanding and appreciation of each other that inevitably will result in a more equitable society for all Americans.”...


A ruling further restricting the admissions process or eliminating the consideration of race altogether will diminish the vibrant university learning experience. It will have grave consequences for many schools across the nation and students of all backgrounds. The constitutional validity and educational benefits of the University’s admissions process are clear. The Commission supports the University of Texas in this case and encourages the Supreme Court to uphold the University’s admissions process.

The commission's entire statement can be read here.

SCOTUS will hear oral arguments on December 9, 2015.

November 24, 2015 in Affirmative Action, Equal Protection Clause, Universities and Colleges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Lehigh resolves civil rights investigation into university's handling of incidents of discrimination with voluntary agreement

Monday, December 9, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 9, 2013

Senate likely to extend ban on plastic guns, but nexus of gun-control debate has shifted to the states; and, four of five members of the city council in rural Rhode Island town face recalls after recommending changes to process for issuing concealed weapons permits.

Obama about ready to announce changes to NSA surveillance program; major tech companies submit open letter to Obama and Congress demanding new limits on NSA's freedom-harming surveillance; Snowden might testify before the EU Parliament's committee on civil liberties; local law enforcement is using software in NSA-style monitoring of cellphone data, and here's how it does it; and, Sen. Paul calls for a renewed commitment to the Fourth Amendment.

Rutger's basketball player alleges civil rights violations against former coach for allegedly repeated verbal and physical abuse; and, New Orleans settles civil rights lawsuit alleging man was falsely arrested and held for five months.

Editorial lambasts New Mexico prison for placing 71-year-old in solitary confinement for one month on suspicion of bringing meth into the facility.

Internet companies speak out against former Cincinatti Bengals cheerleader's defamation suit after federal judge allows it to proceed.

Lexington facing protests after booking for its New Years Eve party a DJ who previously ran a revenge porn site.


December 9, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners, Revenge Porn, Universities and Colleges, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Halloween 2013

Second Circuit stays lower court's stop-and-frisk ruling.

Twenty-three percent of Republicans want more women to be elected to office.

Brown University student defends protest against NYPD commissioner as a successful exercise of free speech.

Hawaii is ready to legalize gay marriage.

Chelsea Manning could sue if she doesn't get treatment for gender identity disorder.

Oneida Nation representatives meet with NFL to discuss the movement to change the name of Washington's football team, but NFL stands firm.


October 31, 2013 in First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Same-sex marriage, Stop-and-frisk, Universities and Colleges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

So, I shouldn't wear my John Wayne costume?

The University of Colorado recently started placing fliers around campus asking students to keep the feelings of other students in mind when selecting this year's Halloween costumes. As The Huffington Post reports, "Advertisements posted around campus depict students from different ethnicities, cultures and religions standing next to a person dressed in costume. In one, a young black man is standing next to another man wearing blackface, gold chains and flashing a prop gun. Another shows a young Asian woman holding a photo of a white woman dressed in a geisha costume." Be courteous, consider how others might interpret your costume. I'm with ya.
But, then the Post reports:

At CU however, cowboys are not totally fine.

"When you dress up as a cowboy, and you have your sheriff badge on and a big cowboy hat, that's not a representation of a cowboy, that's not a representation of people who work on a ranch that's not a representation of people who live in the West, that's kind of a crude stereotype," CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard told Campus Reform.

Line-drawing is difficult; the difference between mockery and good-taste is sometimes not so clear. Indeed, that line depends on context, and context depends on both individual and community experiences. Whether a costume is a "crude stereotype" or an allusion to an iconic American symbol like John Wayne or Kirk Douglas might be disputed in different parts of the county.

October 26, 2013 in Freedom of Speech, Universities and Colleges | Permalink | Comments (2)

CRL&P Daily Reads: Oct. 26, 2013

Human memory might not be as reliable as you think, and one consequence of failed memory is the wrongful conviction of innocent criminal defendants.

Air Force Academy cadets no longer are required to recite "so help me God" in Honor Oath.

Illinois bill to impose mandatory minimums for illegal gun possession could be a win-win for Chicago mayor.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center must wait to pursue civil rights lawsuit against the city and mayor for violation of due process in tax collection efforts.

Saudi women fight for right to drive.


October 26, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Litigation, First Amendment, Freedom of Religion, Gun Policy, Universities and Colleges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Oct. 24, 2013

Texas voter ID law could cause problems for newly married or divorced women, although Slate observes that there is very little data to support claims of either side.

Civil rights group seeks meeting with Barney's CEO to discuss racial profiling allegations made by two shoppers who had been detained following expensive purchases.

ACLU files lawsuit to compel Missouri to disclose supplier of execution drugs.

BLT notes that federal court judge declined to dismiss former legal secretary's pregancy discrimination against firm.

Michael Steele discusses the institutional obstacles faced by HBCUs.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder dodges questions about his stance on extending civil rights to LGBT community.

October 24, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights Litigation, Election Law, Right to Vote, Same-sex marriage, Universities and Colleges, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (0)