To the Oregon State University community,
As I promised in June 2017, I charged a university task force to review OSU’s admissions and attendance policies for students with criminal histories.
This task force was made up of representatives from our faculty, staff, student body and administrative leadership. Members met over six and half months and reviewed the university’s policies and practices related to the evaluation of admission applications and the attendance of undergraduate and graduate students with prior criminal histories. They also compared OSU’s policies and practices with peer institutions.
The result of this review is a new university policy that will become effective in fall term 2018 and affirms OSU’s almost 150-year land grant mission to welcome all educationally qualified students, including those rehabilitated from past crimes. Equally important, this policy prioritizes educational support and success for all students, and the safety of everyone in our community.
This policy is not about this university’s public image. It is about serving OSU’s educational mission, supporting student success and prioritizing community safety. This policy and all of my decisions always will be in alignment with Oregon State’s mission, values and commitments.
With that in mind, beginning with fall 2018, OSU will require all newly admitted and continuing students to self-disclose any prior felony convictions and registered sex offender status before enrolling for classes. The purpose of this self-disclosure policy is not to prevent students with these histories from enrolling, but rather to support the safety of the OSU community, and to support these students’ success as they progress through their OSU education onto graduation.
In prior communications, I have shared my longstanding support for guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education to allow individuals to be admitted to college without revealing a prior criminal record. I continue to support these guidelines and so will OSU. We recognize that asking for criminal history information during the admissions process would disparately affect minorities and would have a chilling effect on educational attainment for many prospective students. Accordingly, OSU will not be asking for these self-disclosures on the application for admission.
Going forward, Provost Ed Feser will appoint a university committee to conduct a confidential case-by-case review of each of the self-disclosing students’ situation. This committee will be comprised of representatives from our faculty, as well as the departments of public safety, admissions, student affairs, housing and dining services, athletics, student conduct and community standards, and equal opportunity and access. This committee will make recommendations to the dean of Student Life, who will determine any extracurricular engagement and participation limitations or requirements needed for safety involving a self-disclosed student. In addition, I expect the dean of Student Life to provide support to self-disclosed students in their engagement activities while at OSU. Meanwhile, the director of Public Safety periodically will meet individually with each self-disclosed student. Where there is not a sufficient safety risk posed by the student participating in an activity, OSU will support the student’s participation and success.
This new policy is an additional step in Oregon State University’s commitment to student success and safety. Over the past decade or more, we have taken many strides in this regard – whether it be OSU’s student success initiative; refreshed policies on student conduct; our first-year live-on campus requirement; policies and programs associated with sexual abuse, harassment and survivor advocacy; and many others.
For example, OSU already requires students to self-disclose certain felony histories to live in an OSU residence hall. As well, full criminal history checks with law enforcement agencies are required for employment or volunteering in sensitive university programs, such as working with minors. We receive reports from Oregon State Police regarding registered sex offenders attending the university, and we preclude those students from living in the residence halls or working with minors. Meanwhile, some university programs do not accept students with certain felony histories. These include some student counseling programs in the College of Education and programs in the College of Pharmacy.
The university’s new policy enables students to apply; be admitted and continue as students at OSU; and only then self-disclose a felony history or registered sex offender status prior to enrolling. In doing so, we want our students to have the knowledge of OSU’s strongly held belief in the power of education, and the benefits that are provided all students by their engagement and participation in experiential learning opportunities. Moreover, to understand that Oregon State promotes the opportunity for individuals, even those who are rehabilitated, to develop their talents and contribute as members of society.
As in the past, access to learning, support for student success and the safety of the community will always be an essential part of Oregon State University’s mission and our paramount concern.
In serving these commitments, we will continue to review our policies to ensure that they are aligned with the best interests of our mission, values and the university community.
Edward J. Ray