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Huskies For Fairness Response to Provost Cauce. 7.15.13

Huskies For Fairness Response to Provost Cauce. 7.15.13

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08/19/2013

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Dear Provost Cauce,Today, Huskies for Fairness, a group of concerned students, faculty, and communitymembers, write to you in regards to the recently implemented policy of adding criminalbackground questions to the University of Washington undergraduate applications. This lettercomes in response to your recent communication with the petitioners, UW students, andfaculty regarding our concerns about the potential consequences of this policy. As we havespent the past month dialoging with our peers, navigating the change.org interface, andbuilding community support for our position on these policies, we would like to stay committedto transparency around our thoughts and discussions of this matter. This being said, however,we feel that based on your initial response to the petition, it was unclear to us that a dialoguewas welcomed or desired, as members of Huskies for Fairness were never invited to participatein any debate around this policy. Discussions regarding the consideration of this policy havebeen largely closed to the general student body, so it has been difficult to examine and discussthe components of this particular policy, as information detailing how it will be implementedhas not been published. We only recently discovered that these questions,
1.
Have you ever been convicted of a violent felony offense, are such charges pendingagainst you at this time, or have you been required to register as a sex offender by anylegal authority in the U.S. or any other country?
2.
If you answered Yes, Please describe the nature of the criminal matter(s). If you wish,you may also explain why this information should not be a cause for concern to thesafety of the university community.have in fact been adopted, when we found them on the UW on-line degree application. Wehave been unable to find the official policy, any listing indicating which student organizationsare supporting or sponsoring this policy, any listing of community groups and or studentgroups/offices that were consulted in this process, nor any details about how it will beimplemented anywhere on-line.
Today we ask you to halt the implementation of these criminal background questionson the 2014-2015 undergraduate application until the UW administration, students, faculty,and UW community supporters have more time to consider the potentially seriousconsequences of such a questions, as well as to develop transparent policies and proceduresif implementation is ultimately supported
.We do want to acknowledge and commend your efforts in responding to the voices of concern expressed by students and parents last winter, after it was discovered that twostudents with a history of level three sex offenses had matriculated. We realize that as
 
administrators and faculty the responsibility of imparting an excellent education in a safe andwelcoming environment is enormous and often complex. We also understand that the vastneed for an inclusive and accessible institution of higher education can never be reachedwithout a commitment to social justice and racial equity. By that we mean, if policies and
decisions aren’t made in collaboration with the groups and communities they are most likely toimpact, and if practices and procedures aren’t assessed in terms of their potential ability t
ocreate disparities across race and social lines, then we as a collective student body andcommunity are effectively sustaining oppressive systems and structures that harm us all.Huskies for Fairness is concerned that with the implementation of this new policy, thedisproportionate policing and hyper-surveillance of low income communities and communitiesof color off campus will prove to be of further consequence on campus. With that in mind, wedo appreciate your diligence in abstaining from questioning applicants about drug-relatedcrimes and misdemeanors, but feel the current questions pertaining to violent felony and sexregistry offenses are still subject to the inherent racism that plagues our justice system andbody of law enforcement. While we are happy to hear that racial equity has been taken intoconsideration during the decisions making process, we still believe that the mere inclusion of questions regarding any criminal history will likely dissuade potential applicants from startingthe application process.Specifically, we are seeking a response and clarification around the following points:
1.
To date we have been unable to find this policy in written form anywhere on-line, so wehave not been able to closely examine it, nor have we seen anything publicly discussedabout how it would be implemented. Is the University of Washington planning onpublishing the details of this policy and how it will be implemented?
2.
The first instance of this newly added criminal history section for undergraduatesapplying can currently be seen on the on-line degree program application. This ispuzzling, as this cohort of students would have
NO
impact on the safety of students on
any of the University of Washington’s campuses, as they are not (most often) physically
on campus. While this may be in an effort to universalize the process to come for allincoming students, it seems unnecessary to bar some students from obtaining aneducation on-line.
3.
How will this policy be enforced in regards to verifying student responses and what isthe financial cost? We have already seen significant tuition hikes and continue toexperience rising educational cost. How much of our tuition dollars will be dedicated to
 
checking applicant responses and excluding some students? If you are using aprofessional background agency, what are your plans to ensure that only these chargesare seen by admission reviewers and not other non-related information? Last year, the
University of Washington Registrar’s office reported 5,500 students matriculated from
areas outside of the U. S. How would the backgrounds of these students be evaluated orverified, and what is the financial impact of these inquires?
4.
You indicate in your responses that the question regarding registry as a sex offender is
“generally level three, which typically are those who have offended multiple times,
whose offenses have been especially violent or show no remorse and are considered highrisk for re-
offending.” 
While that may be true in some states such as Washington, otherstates have different thresholds. States like California are much more expansive and could include mild offenses such as public exposure. How is the university planning toaddress the vast differences across state legislation?
5.
You have indicated that answering yes to one of these questions and having a criminalrecord in one of these respective areas does not automatically disqualify you, as there isa dialogue box provided for an applicant to explain
why this information should not be acause for concern to the safety of the university community.
While we believe addingany criminal questions will likely detour some students from applying that deserve to bea part of the UW academic community, we also feel asking some students to defendtheir right to be on campus is discriminatory, as again campus safety is not correlatedwith past criminal convictions. How can we ask some students to defend their goodnessor safeness, while other students are not questioned at all? Given the landscape of communities of color, queer & transgender, immigrant, and low income communitiesbeing targeted by law enforcement and disproportionately disciplined/incarcerated, itseems reasonable to assume applicants from these communities will be asked to defendtheir right to engage in higher learning as this policy moves forward, something wealready know results in fewer and poorer life chances as adults.
6.
In your response to UW Colleagues you stated that you “
will be supervising how thisgets carried out personally, just as I was involved in crafting the question(s). And I will beworking side by side with students and faculty in doing so. We continue to study best  practices on how to best evaluate the information we do received on these questions.Our plan is to make the initial accept/decline/wait-list decision without taking thisinformation into account then having a special group/panel evaluate the applications of those accepted or wait-listed that did reply yes to this questions.
We agree that
evaluating the merit of an applicant before checking the response to these criminal

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