University eliminates controversial question

Local colleges are willing to give prospective students who have had small run-ins with the law a second chance.

According to an article from the New York Times, St. John’s University, Five Town College and Dowling College will drop criminal inquiries from their application for admission.

The decision to remove the question, “Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a felony?” is in the process of encouraging all New Yorkers to seek higher education without fear of having their criminal record get in the way.

Susan Barr, the interim president of Five Towns, told the Times that they removed it due to a complaint from the advocacy group Center for Community Alternatives, led by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

Barr explained to the Times that she was surprised with the request to remove criminal record related questions from their application process, but did not object to it.

“We haven’t disqualified anyone because of a minor infraction with the law,” Barr said. “Sometimes kids do things they regret. We want to give them a chance.”

According to the Times, collectively, St. John’s and two other schools of higher education came to the agreement with Schneiderman to remove the questions due to the “racial imbalances in how some crimes are processed.”

The question is viewed as being too broad and general, as minor infractions with the law are not threatening to the school.

With this agreement, the criminal history will not be used to base an admission decision unless there is an indication that a convicted individual “poses a threat to public safety or property, or if the convictions are relevant to some aspect of the academic program or student responsibilities.”