Another argument is brewing on some college campuses that is driving a wedge between faculty and administrators. At least two major universities are implementing background checks for new hires.

The California State University policy requires criminal records checks, verification of employment and education, and references. Credit checks could also be required.

The University of Illinois policy requires criminal background checks for all new employees.

In both cases, faculty groups are speaking out against the new policies. They consider them unfair, lacking in privacy provisions, subjective, and “constitutes employment discrimination because [these policies] would likely have a disproportionate impact on racial minorities.”

The truth of the matter is, though, background checks are a necessary and vital component to any hiring process in nearly every industry, including academia. Background checks are performed, especially in the education sector, for a number of reasons:

  • Safety
  • Education and degree verification
  • Identity (this is crucial because a lot of higher education institutions invite foreign or foreign-born professors to teach)

As Benton Mobley, Director of Compliance at Active Screening says, “I see nothing wrong with getting employees screened. I am sure a lot of parents who have kids in school would applaud those efforts. In addition to the criminal records, I also see this as a good way for the universities to verify their staff actually received their said degree along with verifying previous employment history.”

Why Update the Policies?

Cal State’s previous policy allowed campus presidents to decide whether a job was “sensitive” enough to warrant a background check. That meant anyone caring for children, working with finances, or accessing personal information, required a background check. It didn’t extend to every position – teaching faculty, admin, and support staff.

Administrators from both campuses have similar reasons for updating their universities’ screening policies. They say they want to create a safer environment (especially given the spate of violence with weapons on campus and the surge in reported sexual assaults).

Faculty groups say they don’t believe that’s the reason. Instead, they feel it’s a Public Relations move and a knee-jerk reaction to cases like Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse of young boys.


The most interesting argument made against implementing background checks comes from a professor of African-American Studies at the University of Illinois. He says the new policy will have unintended consequences like structural discrimination because statistics show that African-Americans make up 13 percent of Champaign County’s population but more than 70 percent of those who are jailed.

The theory is that by requiring background checks across the board, minorities will automatically get pushed aside earlier in the hiring process because they have a higher rate of criminal convictions.

Growing Trend

In spite of the protests from certain faculty groups, there is no denying that requiring background checks for all university system hires is fast becoming a routine policy across major college campuses.

Other top universities with background checks, include:



Michigan State

North Carolina

Ohio State

Penn State





At Active Screening, we like to use this analogy: Background checks are like preventive medicine. They won’t stop a cancer from forming, but they will provide you the necessary information to make an informed decision.

For more information on the background screening services Active Screening provides to education systems nationwide, click here or call one of our friendly, knowledgeable team members at 1-800-319-5580.

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