January 28, 2017

Should the University of Wisconsin reconsider its policy of doing admissions without looking at the applicant's criminal record?

Yesterday, we learned that a UW-Madison student who'd been trying to start a "pro-white student club" had served prison time for racially motivated arson attacks on black churches. And:
"Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the university was not aware of student Daniel L. Dropik’s conviction when he was admitted to UW-Madison because the university is barred from asking about or considering an applicant’s criminal history."
So is it a bad policy? Blank asked the UW Regents to reconsider the policy, and the student government came out with a statement against her:
The statement from members of the Associated Students of Madison also repeated concerns UW administrators have not done enough to address racism on campus....
It's a crash in the racism intersection. The student that prompted the call for reconsideration was white, with a criminal record of anti-black racism, but the policy is designed to help minority applicants:
“We know who is predominantly impacted by the criminal justice system and we know that it isn’t young, financially secure white men,” representative Brooke Evans said in the statement. “And we know that it doesn’t take a criminal history to determine the capacity for hate in the present.”

The statement also called for Blank to label the organization student Daniel Dropik is trying to start on campus as a white supremacist group. The ASM members said Blank must “craft tangible policies that actually address the racism that is perpetuated by students, faculty, academic staff, university staff and administrators on this campus.”
Blank seems to be trying to maintain a neutral position. I think she knows not to be goaded into discriminating against a student organization based on its viewpoint. And her request to the Regents seems to play it down the middle:
The chancellor wrote she recognizes “how important it is to ensure that students who have made mistakes and paid their debt to society are not denied an education,” and said a prior criminal conviction should not be “an automatic bar to admission.”

“But there are risks in remaining entirely ignorant of an applicant’s felony record,” Blank added. “I believe it is appropriate now to engage in a broad discussion with stakeholders about how we balance campus safety, particularly in a time when we are working hard to ensure all students feel welcome and protected, with the rights of students who have committed violent crimes.”
ADDED: What I would suggest — and I have done a lot of law school admissions work — is to get the information about past arrests and convictions and require a statement about it. What has the individual done with his experience? What will he bring to the classroom and to his future career? It could be considered a positive diversity factor for some applicants. If someone came from a poor family that lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood and fell into crime but served his sentence and could show that he had reflected and matured and done some positive things to orient himself toward education and a career, I would count that as a plus factor. 

61 comments:

rwnutjob said...

Because Minority students commit more crime? Sounds like bigotry.

jaydub said...

This could be easily fixed by just applying the background checks to white male students. Since academia already holds them responsible for most crimes against humanity, why not just hit them upside the head one more time and leave the others alone. It's not like anyone will take their side, anyway.

Curious George said...

"Blank seems to be trying to maintain a neutral position."

No, Blank seems to be trying to be perceived as maintaining a neutral position.

Humperdink said...

Extreme vetting on the horizon?

Tank said...

It's a crash in the racism intersection.

LOL. Great sentence.

We know who is predominantly impacted by the criminal justice system ...

I was jus standin on da corner and I gots impacted by dee criminal justice system. I dindunuffin.

Bay Area Guy said...

One standard:

- if felony conviction, then no admission

- if misdemeanor, then no admission

If this standard prevents too many minority applicants from gaining admission to satisfy the diversity Gods, then get rid of it, and, on occasion accept goofy white trouble-makers like this dude.

I repeat - one standard.

robinintn said...

"...we know who is predominantly impacted by the criminal justice system..." Is this how the student body views black people? I know I wouldn't want my children to be surrounded by such disgusting racists.

Original Mike said...

"We know who is predominantly impacted by the criminal justice system ..."

Criminals?

AllenS said...

“We know who is predominantly impacted by the criminal justice system and we know that it isn’t young, financially secure white men,” representative Brooke Evans said in the statement.

No shit.

Jersey Fled said...

Burn down a black church or an abortion center - you don't get in.

Any other crime - you do.

Problem solved.

rhhardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael K said...

It's kind of fun to watch the left being confused.

Of course, there can be too much fun.

rhhardin said...

Always go to Derbyshire, point 05, when somebody says something or someone is white supremacist. There's lots of useful distinctions.

It might help with racism intersection control.

The problem with this guy is not burning black churches long ago but what he thinks today. Maybe what he thinks today isn't that bad, or maybe it is. Look and see. Who knows. Figure out what needs deploring and what is just disagreement.

It's not a criminal record question at all.

(link fixed I hope)

Curious George said...

"Instead, they distributed a letter Blank wrote to UW System President Ray Cross in which she said the American Freedom Party is “a recognized hate group,” and asked to start a discussion of the System’s policy of not collecting information about applicants’ criminal records."

Recognized by who?

Laslo Spatula said...

iMagine if he had burned a mosque.

I would've written 'synagogue' but the modern campus seems to be a hotbed of Pro-Palestinians. He'd probably be elected President of one of their clubs.

I am Laslo.

Mike said...

I think by virtue of applying to and meeting the criteria of a college one has clearly set a path. Why would past crimes matter? Are people not capable of choosing to better themselves not to be praised? And most practically, is there some problem being caused by too many "criminals" attending higher Ed?

Seems like Blank's neutrality is actually a cruel response to her customers' endeavor to better themselves. She should be defending self-rehabilitation. It looks like the problem of the student's past is that it gave context to what he is doing now when publicly revealed. That is, the availability of information gave all involved more to consider. More speech is better you might say.

Big Mike said...

I see that the student government assumes that checking arrest records would impact Blacks much more than any other racial group. Are they right? There are lots of ways to run a study such that no single individual's name would be associated with their arrest record, but will anyone (besides me) even have the courage to suggest it?

See, here's the problem. Most students are going to think like the student government, in other words that the kid from Milwaukee setting next to them in English class may have been arrested for mirder, rape, armed robbery, and a half dozen other serious crimes. It's a very natural reaction.

IMHO Wisconsin should check arrest records and carefully examine kids who have them. Young men do get arrested by mistake for quite serious crimes. Young people can run with a bad crowd and get their lives together later. And some young predators will be predators until the day they die in a police shootout. The present policy says all are equally welcome on campus.

Mike said...

If you are free enough to attend college then either you've done your time or were not convicted. Why should such a person face any scrutiny other than meeting requirements for admission?

roesch/voltaire said...

I would not prevent a student from enrolling because of a criminal background, especially since we have so many non-traditional, i.e. older students. I have had students on huber who were there for assault etc., so they said, and an older student returning to get a new degree because he was barred from coaching after a discovered affair with one of his high school students, which he revealed as the semester wore on, and various students involved in a 12 step program. In this case I suspect the Cardinal or Harold, if they do there job, would have revealed the background of this student if it is an issue.

Mike Sylwester said...
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Mike Sylwester said...

The hate-crime laws are applied only to White males, so the no-box rules likewise could be applied only to White males.

Mike said...

Ideally I'd want Blank to say, "I will defend the right of any student to attend UW who has been admitted. We are here to educate, not adjudicate any past crimes."

Full stop.

Mike said...

To me this illustrates the intersection of Conservatism and Classical Liberalism.

Sally327 said...

Prison probably didn't help his anti-social proclivities and apparently college isn't either.

I think a college should have the right to know the criminal background of every applicant. It shouldn't be an automatic bar to admittance, though, and probably wouldn't be in most instances. Outside of rape at least. I can't imagine any convicted rapist getting in.

madAsHell said...

The real question......Can they secure a student loan? If yes, then we admit them, otherwise.....

MaxedOutMama said...

Well, the policy obviously may work against the "safe space" concept.

But there are two important public policy priorities that must conflict: one is that persons who have served their time should be readmitted to society without any but the most necessary restrictions (otherwise every sentence is a life sentence, to some degree), and the second is that persons should be able to access higher education without being endangered.

Obviously rapists and the sort of human dreck embodied in this instance do present a real risk to the students and their sense of safety on campus. There cannot be a perfect solution here.

AJ Lynch said...

Awkward!

Curious George said...

"Obviously rapists and the sort of human dreck embodied in this instance do present a real risk to the students and their sense of safety on campus."

This is idiocy. They pose no more risk to students than to society in general.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Just have a point system for the crimes, and then an arbitrary multiplication factor that the admissions department can apply if they want.

Danno said...

Ah, the law of unintended consequences strikes again!

James Pawlak said...

The OX now gored one White criminal. Hmmm? HOW MANY BLACK CRIMINALS (eg "SEXUAL ASSAULT") ARE NOW PROWLING UW CAMPUSES???

traditionalguy said...

A new law suit complaint against Baylor University is now on line. it spells out how not to favor lawless culture just to please a political pressure group called football fans.

Sebastian said...

Wait, can't they just include criminal history in "holistic review," so they can distinguish between cool or diverse crimes and bad or boring crimes?

James Pawlak said...

The solutions are: Two to the chest and one to the head; Four inches with the point, twist, repeat; A shot of oven cleaning spray to the eyes----All supported by giving all law-abiding students, over 18-years of age, the same "Right To Keep And Bear Arms" as other potential victims of thugs.

Ken B said...

So simple. Admit No-one. Solves so many problems.

EDH said...

I wonder if this guy could be admitted?

Nazi Segway driver dressed as a druid arrested in Germany on suspicion of having plotted attacks on Jews and Muslims

(h/t Instapundit)



Paco Wové said...

"This could be easily fixed by just applying the background checks to white male students."

Now now, jaydub. That's far too un-subtle. Mealy-mouthed institutional plausible deniability must be maintained! Althouse shows you the correct formulation - require disclosure, then make sure the assessment of the crime and its circumstances is purely subjective. Notice how Althouse manages to turn criminality into a positive, admissions-enhancing achievement, when committed by the right kind of applicant? That's genius, that is.

Gahrie said...

What has the individual done with his experience? What will he bring to the classroom and to his future career? It could be considered a positive diversity factor for some applicants

In effect mandating consideration of a person's viewpoint in determining eligibility.

Gahrie said...

This could be easily fixed by just applying the background checks to white male students.

Seems to me that all of higher learning's problems could be solved by simply banning White men from colleges and universities.

Diogenes of Sinope said...

The University of Wisconsin should immediately start a policy of investigating each applicant's political beliefs. And NOT looking at the applicant's criminal record. UW should refuse to admit haters, bigots, racists, home schoolers, misogynists, Christian extremists, Conservatives, Republicans, homophobes, Islamophobes, Capitalists, free market extremists, rightwingers, etc regardless of their criminal backgrounds.

buwaya said...

Why should the school care?
Yet again this is another bit of foolishness that comes from in loco parentis.
The simple, sound, and historically typical policy is to treat the students as adults, and for the school to limit its concerns to providing istruction and gate-keeping.
For the rest the students should be expected to fend for themselves as would any other resident of the locality.
As is the way its done in most of the world.

MaxedOutMama said...

Curious George - but what universities are explicitly selling is an experience that feels MUCH safer than the society as a whole!!! Light years.

Does a medical student doing her internship in an ER expect to get a trigger-warning before being asked to care for a crying, hysterical rape victim?

UW seeks, in some sense, to establish an idealized community. For example:
https://www.housing.wisc.edu/residencehalls-life-diversity.htm
The University of Wisconsin-Madison values a diverse community where all members are able to participate fully in the Wisconsin Experience. Therefore, in University Housing, one of our priorities is to establish inclusive, respectful and caring communities.

Inclusion in the residence halls is achieved by all staff working in tandem to create and maintain an environment where everyone feels respected, valued, welcomed and supported. There is a feeling of belonging created because there has been a focus on the needs of each individual in order to create a culture of respect/civility.

Within this environment, collaboration and partnerships are emphasized while barriers and negative biases and assumptions are confronted and eliminated.


buwaya said...

MaxedOutMama,

This bit you posted is the whole problem. The entire policy statement is the complete opposite of good sense, and its assumptions are fundamentally absurd. Establish a community? Why?
Why a problem with "barriers, negative biases and assumptions" - what business is that of theirs?
Why emphasise "collaboration and partnerships"? Who decided that, and on what sort of reasoning? Why shouldnt conflict be emphasised instead, that the truth be revealed in open battle?

Paco Wové said...

"There is a feeling of belonging created..."

Jesus, what utter bullshit. It reads like an advertisement for some drug-rehab halfway house, or a therapeutic womb-shelter for fragile, damaged souls.

Given that universities encourage this, it's not surprising that's what they seem to produce.

Krumhorn said...

If someone came from a poor family that lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood and fell into crime but served his sentence and could show that he had reflected and matured and done some positive things to orient himself toward education and a career, I would count that as a plus factor.

Ann, you may have served some time in law school admissions, but you would need to couple that with service on a parole board where you can hear very well–rehearsed presentations, just as you describe, from cons who have had nothing but time, in a supportive and sophisticated environment, to polish up the shine on those very words.

As the great philosopher, George Burns, said, 'sincerity, if you can fake that, you've got it made'.

It's important to keep in mind that the central objective of the lefties is to arrive at the point where they can tell each and every one of us what we can and cannot do. Scratch one and there is a tyrant screaming to get out.

- Krumhorn

openidname said...

Rule 1 for college officials: Never make a decision; always call for "a broad discussion with stakeholders" instead.

Eustace Chilke said...

Tweaking this background check business is simple. Only background check white people. Call it checking their privilege if you like. There. Done.

n.n said...
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n.n said...

The persistence of [class] diversity (i.e. judging people by the "color of their skin") is an overt threat to human dignity everywhere. UW should close the Office of [class] Diversity and legacy institutions of left-wing America. They are the bigots they have been creating.

Freeman Hunt said...

"ADDED: What I would suggest — and I have done a lot of law school admissions work — is to get the information about past arrests and convictions and require a statement about it. What has the individual done with his experience? What will he bring to the classroom and to his future career? It could be considered a positive diversity factor for some applicants. If someone came from a poor family that lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood and fell into crime but served his sentence and could show that he had reflected and matured and done some positive things to orient himself toward education and a career, I would count that as a plus factor."

This seems so obvious it's surprising that that's not already what is done everywhere.

fivewheels said...

Remember admitting a student with a conviction for rape does not affect campus safety in any way administrators are worried about, but if a guy is accused of sexual assault, with not only no evidence against him but despite evidence that he's innocent -- expel him immediately.

Has Trump straightened out the Dept. of Ed yet?

Seeing Red said...

I think this pist is very timely.

Insty has a post on what's going on at Princeton. That message is stick to your own kind.

Zach said...

The racial element of this is unsolvable.

Personally, I would take the position that a public university is a public amenity and should be accessible to as much of the public as is possible. An ex-con going to college is a very positive life step, and we shouldn't take that away from people lightly.

Jupiter said...

Gahrie said...

"Seems to me that all of higher learning's problems could be solved by simply banning White men from colleges and universities."

Math and Physics Departments hardest hit.

Joe said...

Doing proper admissions is hard and filled with risks. In this case, there are ex-felons who have changed and deserve a chance, but that requires a leap of faith which can come back to bite you in the ass. (There are kids with "clean" records who do very bad things, some of whom would be rejected by a vigorous vetting process.)

Joe said...

To add: I find zero tolerance admissions policies as offensive as affirmative action policies. Both deny the humanity of the person.

n.n said...

positive diversity factor

A qualification of diversity or [class] diversity, the current status quo.

fivewheels said...

You know, if you don't have any spree killers, and then you admit one, you have enhanced your diversity. And diversity is a universal good, right? That's why we hear about it all the time? I mean, that's the main goal of admissions, right?

James Pawlak said...

Perhaps, criminals who apply should be evaluated by a panel of crime victims before admission.

DKWalser said...

I used to serve on our state's board that regulates post-secondary schools. It seems schools can be caught in a catch-22 problem. On the one hand, the Education Department's rules prohibit schools from discouraging or refusing to enroll academically qualified students just because they have a criminal record. For this reason, most schools don't ask about whether or not someone has been convicted of a crime. On the other hand, the Department's rules also provide schools should not enroll someone in a program if there's little to no chance the person can obtain a job upon graduation. These rules come into conflict when someone's criminal record can prevent their obtaining a job in their chosen field no matter how well they did in school.

For example, on complaint heard by our board involved a nursing student who was in a program to become an ER nurse. ER nurses have access to listed drugs and the student had a drug conviction. No hospital would hire her with her criminal record. Quite understandably, she was upset that the school had allowed her to enroll in a program when the school should have known she couldn't get a job upon graduation. But, of course, the school couldn't even tell her that she wouldn't be able to get a job with her criminal record because doing so would have violated the Department's anti-discrimination rules.

campy said...

Math and Physics Departments hardest hit.

How? They're mostly Asian.