Corvallis – Oregon State University announced Thursday a new policy that will require all new and continuing students to self-report past felony convictions and registered sex offender status before enrolling in fall 2018 classes.
The new policy also provides support for these students’ educational success and for community safety.
“This policy affirms OSU’s almost 150-year land grant mission to welcome all educationally qualified students, including those rehabilitated from past crimes,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “Equally important, this policy prioritizes educational support and success for all students, and the safety of everyone in our community.
“The purpose of this self-disclosure policy is not to prevent students with these histories from enrolling, but rather to support the safety of the OSU community, and to support these students’ success as they progress through their education onto graduation.”
The university already requires students to self-disclose certain felonies to live in a residence hall. As well, full criminal history checks with law enforcement agencies are required for employment or volunteering in sensitive university programs, such as working with minors. Steve Clark, OSU vice president for university relations and marketing, said the university receives reports from Oregon State Police regarding registered sex offenders attending OSU and precludes those students from living in the residence halls or working with minors. Meanwhile, some university programs do not accept students with certain felony histories, such as counseling programs in the College of Education and programs in the College of Pharmacy.
“This new policy advances many years of programming and commitment by Oregon State in student success and community safety,” Clark said.
Going forward, a university committee will conduct a confidential case-by-case review of each of the self-disclosing students’ situations. Clark said OSU’s dean of student life then will determine any extracurricular engagement and participation limitations or requirements needed for safety involving a self-disclosed student. The dean also will provide support to self-disclosed students in their engagement activities. Clark also said OSU’s director of Public Safety periodically will meet individually with each self-disclosed student.
“Where there is not a safety risk posed by the student participating in an activity, OSU will support the student’s participation in programs and activities, and their success,” Clark said.
The new policy was recommended by a task force that Ray charged last year to review OSU’s admission and attendance policies for prospective students with prior criminal histories. The task force was made up of representatives from faculty, students and university administrative offices.
Clark said the university did not want to require the self-reporting of past felonies during the application process because national studies have shown that this could act as a barrier for many students, especially for students of color, to enroll in college. Instead, the university’s new policy enables students to apply; be admitted and continue as students at OSU; and only then self-disclose a felony history or registered sex offender status prior to enrolling.
“This policy is not about this university’s public image,” Ray said. “It is about serving OSU’s educational mission, supporting student success and prioritizing community safety. This policy and all of my decisions always will be in alignment with Oregon State’s mission, values and commitments.
“We want all students to have the knowledge of OSU’s strongly held belief in the power of education. We want all students to know the benefits that are provided all students by their engagement and participation in experiential learning opportunities. Moreover, we want them to understand that Oregon State promotes the opportunity for all individuals, including those who are rehabilitated, to develop their talents and contribute as members of society.”