SEATTLE — The University of Washington plans to start asking prospective students about their criminal history.
The group opposing the idea is called Huskies For Fairness — and they say a good education can make all the difference in helping offenders turn their lives around.
But plenty of students would rather not have felons on campus.
“I think people have the right to an education in general, regardless if you’re a convicted felon or not,” said recent graduate Alaena Ponce.
“If you put yourself into that situation, you need to be willing to accept the lifelong consequences,” countered student Anton Leitner.
Not all UW students are crazy about sharing a classroom with a convict.
“A person might come to terms with themselves even though they had a criminal past,” said student Kenny Nguyen. “It’d be unfair to judge them just based on that as a prospective student.”
The school is considering adding a line to the application asking about violent or sexual crimes.
And responding positively to the question could keep kids from being accepted.
The proposal was drafted after some parents discovered a couple of convicted sex offenders were admitted last year.
“There’s no link between campus safety and folks having any type of criminal history on campus,” said Sean Johnson with Huskies For Fairness.
Johnson argues that by keeping convicts out of the classroom basically punishes them a second time.
“If we deny these folks an ability to get a better education, what are we really saying? What kind of life are we leaving for them if it’s not one is more likely to be living on the margins, which is more likely for them to become criminalized,” added Johnson.
So far nearly 4,000 people have signed an online petition encouraging UW administrators to can the plan.
But not all students agree.
“It’s something else going on in your head if you committing violent or sexual acts,” said Leitner. “If you’re stealing things, then that could be done out of necessity, but violence and sexual crimes, something’s wrong with a person.”
Opponents hope to meet with school officials soon to work out a compromise.
The provost said they were too busy to discuss the issue on Friday, but offered to talk about it next week.