This headline caught my attention this morning while reading our local newspaper, “The Columbus Dispatch:”
Colleges Weigh Student Crimes
Clarett among hundreds of felons admitted to Ohio schools
In case you don’t know, Clarett is Maurice Clarett who led the Ohio State Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship during his freshman year. He pleaded guilty in 2006 to aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon, and served 3 1/2 years in a Toledo prison. On Monday he started taking classes again at Ohio State.
His return to classes has created a lot of buzz, but what really caught my attention was the statement “he’s hardly the only person with a criminal record attending a central Ohio college.”
Here are some interesting tidbits from the article:
- Ohio State University estimates that 30 to 45 people with felony convictions or suspensions from another college apply to the Columbus campus each year as freshmen or transfer students. Of those, about 20 or so make it through a vetting process that ensures they don’t pose a safety risk. They still have to meet the school’s academic requirements, and some give up when they find out they might not qualify for federal financial aid because of a drug conviction. The vast majority have gotten into trouble because of alcohol and drugs. At Ohio State, officials sometimes add restrictions, such as being prohibited from living in a dorm or being required to talk with a campus counselor, for people who have convictions. A few are asked to reapply in a year after securing permanent housing, finding a job or doing volunteer work – or taking classes online or at a two-year school to prove that they are ready for the challenge.”We don’t automatically bar anybody,” said Louise Douce, assistant vice president of student life.
- Columbus State Community College has higher numbers of applicants with criminal histories, in part because the school has open enrollment, said Admissions Director Tari Blaney. Last school year, there were 980 felons among the 31,000-plus applicants to Columbus State. Nearly 400 were admitted, Blaney said. Like a growing number of schools nationwide, Columbus State Community College is considering running background checks for students whose records raise red flags.
- Miami University – Under Ohio law, people who have served time for any of more than 30 violent crimes have to wait a year after being convicted before they can enroll in a public college, said Claire Wagner, Miami University’s spokeswoman. “And if we have learned a student lied about the criminal conviction, we can suspend them for at least a year,” she said.
- Ohio University – Ex-convicts who make it through the vetting process do as well as students without a record, several local campus officials said.”I’ve been doing this for 15 years and only two of the hundreds and hundreds of people with criminal convictions we have admitted have re-offended,” said Nicolette Dioguardi, Ohio University’s deputy general counsel. “People who are truly dedicated to getting their education and improving their lives are generally the most motivated to succeed.”
Most central Ohio colleges ask applicants to report whether they have ever been convicted of a crime or suspended from another school. Those who say yes are asked to provide more information. A committee of campus officials reviews the nature of the offense, when it happened and whether it is part of a criminal pattern. The committee also looks at what applicants have done since being convicted.
Employee Screening Best Practice
This holistic approach is also a recommended best practice for employers when hiring. If the applicant has a conviction, look at the nature and gravity of the crime, the nature of the job, and the age of the crime to determine whether there is a business justification to deny employment. Also, employers should review the individuals entire background – through verifications, references, interviews, etc. to make an informed decision about the individual.
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