Good grades not enough? UW to ask applicants about criminal past

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SEATTLE — The University of Washington plans to start asking prospective students about their criminal history.

uwBut now an online petition with thousands of signatures is calling on UW to eliminate those questions.

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.

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  • Robin

    Talk about tabloid journalism. You are sensationalizing the story. The story leads like they are wanting to stop all felons. The reporters' statements and student responses make it seem like it is all felons. In reality it is sex and violent crimes. I don't believe in stopping bettering yourself, and that said a violent person who has done their time can be redeemed. Sex criminals do need to be watched, however.

    As to the student who said basically, you should have thought about it before you did the crime…A twist of fate and it could be you or your child.

    My favorite statement is "A Conservative is a Liberal who has just been mugged and a Liberal is a Conservative who has just been indicted."

  • Education for all

    But do you really think that people who have been convicted of a sexual crime should be denied an education, when campus violence in the form of sexual assault is not being committed by those with a record. Is it not more likely to be someone they become friends with and trust, the privileged identities that we in this society message as safe "nice" people, like the fraternity bunch or athletes? And beyond the right to an education, doesn't the justice system lock people up with the intention of rehabilitation or at least time served for crime done? If we believe people released from prison never serve their time and walk out with the same tendencies toward behavior that could be harmful, why are we locking anyone up?

  • BILL K.

    Rapist and sex offenders are the only people who should never truely be free again. And the "criminal justice" system is designed to be racially biased so where as rich white kids have parents to buy thier clean records with expencive lawyers to protect thier children from thier own youthfull mistakes, minorities usually are only focused upon survival and can not afgord to buy a lwayer to keep thier record clean. Its not about punishing wrongs or correcting behavior. Its a business, cops atrest those weakest economicly speaking because they cannot afford lawyers to defend themselves. More filled jail beds is more profit for the for profit corporations that own and operate these state filled facilities.

  • Two Cents

    Good grades my eye. Plenty of excellent students are denied entrance because grades are not the only factor now. I'm just surprised they weren't already checking criminal history. Criminals should be able to attend college, but maybe not the best or highest ranked. Spots in those should be reserved for people with unblemished pasts.

    • S

      Hello! See the recent Jobs Assistant legisaltion that passed in Seattle, or perhaps get involved with activism seeking to change how formely incarerated folks are denied employment.

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