Two senate committees are suggesting changes to the university's new criminal background check policy, though a resolution to be presented to senators Dec. 7 calls for the policy to be scrapped altogether.
Both committees – General University Policy and Equal Opportunity and Inclusion – are finalizing their reports, which will be sent to Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre in the coming days.
Pierre's adhoc committee was convened after members of the Urbana-Champaign Senate overwhelmingly rejected the policy in its current form and requested a campus forum to address concerns.
Pierre's committee, comprising campus faculty members and administrative and employee leaders, is collecting suggestions from all three campuses and will present any revisions to the U. of I. Board of Trustees in January.
The EOI committee's report challenges the need for a universitywide background check policy, saying it is exclusionary by nature. It also addresses several sections within the administrative document that the committee said are vague or contradictory.
The GUP committee’s report makes many of the same recommendations to improve language and better protect candidate information.
Meanwhile, at the Nov. 30 Senate Executive Committee meeting, members voted to allow a resolution to be placed on the senate agenda asking that the new policy be halted.
The resolution says the policy is discriminatory and doesn't adhere to model guidelines of the American Association of University Professors.
"It is inequitable to include considerations of arrest or conviction record of an otherwise successful applicant in the decision-making process," the report said.
The university already conducts background checks for sensitive positions.
The resolution to eliminate the background check policy was placed on the agenda, despite one senator's claim that the resolution is filled with misleading and inaccurate information.
The resolution was included in the agenda after some SEC members argued it is within senators' rights to submit any resolutions without being overruled by the SEC.
Edward Feser, the interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said while the policy isn't highly popular, the suggested changes coming from faculty members would improve it.
Feser's office will make a formal presentation on the criminal background check policy prior to senate discussion.
He said the added protections are designed to shield candidate information, and that the policy wouldn't necessarily detract from campus diversity efforts.
He said the current policy does not place criteria on what specific types of crimes would be cause for nonemployment, and background hits would be considered on a case-by-case basis and vetted through a background check committee comprising campus constituents.
Feser said applicants with a criminal background who know that the process is fair and open would be more likely to apply for campus work.
Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson said the board's intent behind the new policy was to protect students. She said the idea arose from a criminal incident on another U. of I. campus.
"My first and foremost concern is student safety," she said. "It's not something that just came out of the blue. There may be some consequences – I hope there are not."
Kim Graber, an SEC member and a professor of kinesiology and community health, said the effort would be worth it if students are protected because of it.
"If it can stop a rape or sexual assault, then I'm glad," she said.
Graber also praised the process, saying it is "a good example of the best of shared governance."