The University of Washington has decided to ask students about their criminal background before they're admitted to the school. The practice will start for the application process for the fall of 2014.
Prospective students will be asked if they have ever been convicted of a violent felony offense or are you required to register as a sex offender. They’ll also be asked to describe the nature of the crime and to explain why it should not be a cause for concern to the safety of the school.
UW Provost Ana Marie Cauce said a public safety issue came up last year.
"There was an article in the Seattle Times about the fact that we had two Level 3 sex offenders on campus,” she said.
It not only created public safety issues of making sure minors were not in the same classes, but a fear component as well.
"Real fear amongst our students,” said Cauce. “They got a note saying there is a student in your class that is a Level 3 sex offender.”
While some students agree with the new policy, others worry it would further marginalize those trying to improve their lives.
"One of the ways people with criminal history are able to move past that is through education,” said Heidi Thielmann, who is getting her doctorate in criminology.
A group called Huskies for Fairness started an online petition against it. More than 3,700 people, including students and professors, have signed it.
Cauce insists they'll only ask about violent offenses and even those applicants will get case by case consideration.
"We can make a very conscious and deliberative choice as to whether this is someone we want to welcome on our campus,” she said.
Several private colleges and Western Washington University already ask similar questions on their applications.