Ed board

Should criminal background checks be part of a college’s admissions process?

More stories from Faith Hultman


The UW System Board of Regents is considering adding criminal background checks to the UW application after it came out that a white nationalist student who was attempting to organize a branch of the American Freedom Party on the UW-Madison campus had been convicted of the arson of two predominantly black churches, according to an article in The Capital Times.

There are risks in not knowing an applicant’s record before admitting them into the college, said UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, according to the aforementioned article.

It is important to ensure low-income students and students who have made mistakes and paid their debt to society are not barred entry. A felony conviction should not be an automatic denial of admission, she said.

The Spectator’s editorial board convened to answer the question: Should criminal background checks be part of a college’s admissions process?

One speaker said it is a “slippery slope” to decide what kind of crimes are and are not acceptable for admission into college.

“I say that schools should not consider background checks,” one member said. “While I do think that there are excellent reasons to do so, I do think it goes too far in that it’s hard to know the full situation, and in some cases is inflicting further punishment where it may not be needed.”

The speaker said it is too much of a gray area when deciding whether to admit a student into a college.

Another member disagreed. Just because it is difficult to determine where to draw the line doesn’t mean the line isn’t worth drawing, the speaker said.

“I think when you’re admitting someone to a university you should know what has happened in the past so you can tell what might happen in the future,” the member said.

The Spectator Editorial Board voted 6-1 against whether colleges should incorporate criminal background checks into their admissions process.