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Criminal records and college admissions
  1. Matthew W Pierce1,
  2. Carol W Runyan1,2,3
  1. 1University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Matthew W Pierce, Injury Prevention Research Center, University of North Carolina, 137 E Franklin St, CB # 7505, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA; mwpierce{at}email.unc.edu

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Background

Violence on college campuses has attracted considerable media attention in recent years as a result of several high-profile shootings, including those at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois Universities. These shootings, however, are only the most visible form of student violence. Although college students are less likely to be victims of violent crime than their non-college counterparts,1 studies suggest that student-perpetrated violence—especially intimate partner violence—is a public health problem. College men have reported 3-month and 1-year incidence rates of rape perpetration of 4% and 5%2 3; 10% of college men and 25% of college women have reported committing physical aggression in their most recent relationship4; and 46% of college men and 18% of college women have reported committing physical aggression toward strangers in the last year.5 Just over 4% of college students (8% of men and 1% of women) have acknowledged having firearms at college.6

Student violence prompted a national response in 1989 when Congress passed The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (“Clery Act”).7 Named after Lehigh University student Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered by another student in 1986, the Clery Act requires colleges to publish information about campus crime, allowing parents and applicants to compare safety across schools. It does not specify preventive interventions, however.

One intervention that a growing number of undergraduate institutions are adopting, according to newspaper reports, is to screen applicants on the basis of their criminal histories.8–12 Schools are examining criminal histories by (1) asking applicants to self-report specific information about their histories and/or (2) running independent criminal background checks on applicants. Schools differ on which crimes warrant denial of admission, and some schools impose lesser sanctions for more minor crimes—for example, students may be admitted but required …

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