May 15 2015 Background Checks at Big Ten Universities
Background checks have become a standard practice when hiring within the corporate world. Universities and other higher learning institutions are initiating or enhancing the practice for faculty, staff and even students partly in light of the issues at Penn State involving former football coach, Jerry Sandusky.
There has been a “significant” shift in the number of universities requiring employee background checks. Many of the Big Ten Universities are updating their background check policies for all employees. Penn State updated their policy in February 2013, while Iowa and Michigan State Universities implemented changes in November. The University of Illinois will now require all new and potential hires to undergo a background check. Previously, the University only performed background checks on potential employees whose circumstances were considered “sensitive” in nature or those who were medical patients, working with children, firearms or University funds.
Background checks became an issue for the University of Illinois after various media outlets reported on a University instructor, James Kilgore who served time for second-degree murder prior to being hired. Mr. Kilgore was not required to undergo a background check outlining his criminal history prior to employment. His contract was terminated although he has said that he had been scrupulous in disclosing his history during the hiring process. This incident has only encouraged the need to revamp the ongoing background check policies at the University of Illinois.
George Washington University will perform background checks on candidates for their top faculty examining criminal charges and sexual offenses. The intention is to reduce the risk to safety and security, as many of the students are minors especially in light of the sex abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University.
The University is also considering requiring checks on part-time faculty or those who may not work consecutive semesters. Since July 2010, faculty members have been fired after the institution learned about their past sexual offenses. University officials have realized that if a background check had been conducted, it would be clear that these inspaniduals should not have been hired.
It is important for students to trust that the faculty members are honorable and conscientious people. George Washington University already conducts background information on staff hires (approximately 1,000 per year) background checks and estimates that this will add approximately 5 days to the hiring process and background checks will cost $150 per applicant.
As the White House has recently addressed sexual misconduct on college campuses, there will most likely be additional background checks incorporated in the future for students as well as employees.
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