Backing new checks

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April 7, 2011

9:23 PM

Next year, the College of William and Mary will begin to conduct background checks on faculty applicants. This means that unless the charges can be adequately explained, candidates with any type of criminal history will be removed from the applicant pool. We believe this is an important new part of the application process, and a provision which should have already been in place for some time.

These background checks will be conducted by a background officer — the position will likely be filled by someone already in the administration — who will run the applicants’ names through a database. As another feature of this new application process, new hires will enter their fingerprints into a database. The program has been verified by law enforcement. Any findings will not be released beyond the College’s administration, and results will be destroyed after the hiring decision has been made. We applaud the College for taking the necessary precautions to keep our campus safe, and we are also pleased to see it will be done in a way so as to not offend the candidates or harm the integrity of the application process.

Prospective students already go through a similar process when applying to the College, and it is only fair that prospective faculty members do the same. We want to ensure the College only accepts the best individuals, and this can only be achieved by excluding those persons who have been charged with and found guilty of some criminal offense.

The College is one of the first universities in Virginia to implement a process like this. Some speculate the College has taken this initiative in response to the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of former assistant economics professor Justin May, arrested last year on child pornography charges. While the situation with May and similar incidents on other college campuses likely factored into the College’s decision, what matters most the safety of our campus. Screening potential faculty members is one more way to ensure safety here at the College.

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