UI Faculty Senate Seeks to Change Criminal Background Checks
By Diane Heldt, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - More potential University of Iowa employees will undergo criminal background checks as part of the hiring process, under a policy change approved Tuesday by UI faculty leaders.
The changes to the university criminal background check policy must still be approved by UI President Sally Mason before they take effect. Several campus committees and groups, including the Faculty Senate on Tuesday, have backed the revisions.
The current policy calls for criminal background checks only for those positions that entail particular risk.
The revised policy requires criminal background checks for all regular merit and professional scientific staff and faculty positions at the time candidates are selected for hire. Criminal background checks will be conducted for temporary staff, fixed term faculty and student staff positions only when the position has been designated security sensitive.
The changes bring the UI policy more in line with the practices at peer institutions, Warren Darling, chairman of the faculty policies and compensation committee, said. Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa conduct criminal background checks on all faculty and staff at the time of hire, subject to exceptions for certain part-time or student employees, officials said.
The revisions also allow more flexibility for university human resources when a background check turns up one single, minor conviction. Under the current policy, a consultation among several UI officials must occur every time a check reveals a criminal conviction. Under the policy change, senior human resources representatives will be authorized, under established guidelines, to approve a hire when a check reveals one minor conviction.
The most frequent of those types of minor convictions that UI officials had in mind are possession of alcohol under the legal age, public intoxication and driving a car without the proper registration.
"Those are the ones that come up most commonly," Darling said.
Also on Tuesday, the Faculty Senate heard about upcoming changes to the UI Honors Program.
The Honors Program currently automatically enrolls students who meet a certain grade-point average requirement, and that minimum GPA mark is the only requirement to stay in the program.
Under the changes, students beginning next summer will have to opt-into the program and also must take 12 hours of honors classes to stay in it, officials said. That change is expected to cut the number of Honors Students -- more than 6,000 now -- by about half, officials said. But they believe having students opt-into the program and having a class requirement will mean more engaged honors students and a stronger program identity.
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