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New proposal demands background checks for faculty hires

Do you think potential professors should be exempt from the same background checks required of other new employees at Case Western Reserve University? As The Observer first reported last week, the Undergraduate Student Government and Faculty Senate Committee on Women do not.

On Jan. 22, USG passed General Assembly Resolution R. 22-01. The resolution concerned a policy proposal requiring background checks for new faculty hires at CWRU. Currently, background checks are required for new staff only. Background checks for new faculty are already in use at some other universities, such as Emory, Stanford, and Duke.

The proposal originated from the President’s Advisory Committee on Women (PACOW) after Dr. Dorothy C. Miller, director of the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women, made the committee aware of the issue.

According to Miller, the Center for Women decided to take action after conducting inquiries about safety on campus and discovering that background checks are required for only new staff and not faculty.

“The Flora Stone Mather Center for Women’s vision statement includes the following: We will serve as a source of empowerment and support for women and our advocacy efforts will be known for addressing violence against women and promoting dialogues on women and gender. Thus, we are concerned with violence against women. But while our efforts are focused on violence against women, we are concerned for the safety of everyone on campus,” said Miller.

Although it was PACOW that initially prompted the proposal, Miller stated that it could have easily come from any other campus organization.

According to the proposal, a criminal background would not prevent a candidate from being hired, unless they had been convicted of a crime of violence. If the candidate has been convicted of a crime in the past, at least one person from the Provost’s office, Human Resources, and General Counsel’s office, each, would review the candidate and decide how to proceed.

Each case would then be reviewed individually. According to the proposal, the nature of the offense, whether the position is related to the conviction, and the job description have to be taken into account in the decision-making process. Human Resources would also look into possible patterns of convictions in the candidate’s past.

According to Miller, the proposal has received positive feedback around campus thus far. In addition to USG, it has been endorsed by the Faculty Senate Committee on Women, the Graduate Student Senate, and the editorial board of The Observer.

However, it will not become an enforced policy until the Faculty Senate and President Barbara R. Snyder approve it.

Miller does not know when the policy would be implemented if it gets approved, since it cannot be introduced at CWRU without the establishment of new administrative processes for executing it.

She is sure, however, that the policy will have an impact on the students at CWRU.

“The effect on everyone would be some degree of enhanced safety on campus,” Miller said, “But I cannot stress enough that we are talking about a marginal difference. I do not know how many staff member candidates have been convicted of crimes, but my guess is very few and that will be true of faculty candidates, too. That said, this will be another way of helping to provide safety on campus.”

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About the Contributor
Noora Somersalo, Opinion Editor
Noora Somersalo is a third-year English and chemistry double major currently serving as the opinion editor of The Observer. In the past, Noora has worked for the news section as a staff reporter. Noora is also a tutor on the SAGES Peer Writing Crew.
In her free time, she likes to drink coffee (preferably alongside some tasty treats), watch movies, and, when her finances permit, explore the Cleveland food scene.

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