Local News

UNC System Won't Do Background Checks For All Incoming Students

Posted August 2, 2004 7:14 a.m. EDT

— According to a task force assigned to discuss campus safety, the University of North Carolina system will not perform background checks for all incoming students.

The task force instead wants to develop a method for criminal background checks on a case-by-case basis.

All 16 UNC campuses want to tighten up the admissions process after the murders of two UNC-Wilmington students in separate incidents.

The suspects in the cases were both students who failed to disclose their criminal history on their college application.

The task force met for the second time Monday.

"Unfortunately, it was a tragic situation that prompted such an undertaking," said task force member Jocelyn Foy. "But I think we'll be better campuses as a result.

"We rely on students to be honest. But we also have the responsibility to protect the university campus and environment."

Although the problem is simple, the solution apparently is not. Prospective students can slip through simply by lying. Background checks would fix that, but there are legal and financial constraints.

"Running a criminal background chek on every student could cost millions of dollars, and that cost would have to be incurred by someone," task force member Steve Farmer said.

The answer may be background checks on a case-by-case basis. Also, campuses could cross-check with one another on expelled students in the UNC system.

"We need to do whatever we can reasonably do to include students who we know on campus, who we have confidence in, and students who will behave well outside the classroom," Farmer said.

The task force still has to decide the criteria for executing "case-by-case" background checks. The group also wants applicants to provide a "character witness" and cross-check records at other colleges and universities.

Work will continue through the fall. Changes are possible for the 2005-2006 school year.