Background Checks

NYU is evaluating whether it should remove criminal background check questions on the application form that prospective students fill out and submit. Already, the NYU Silver School of Social Work has removed any reference to criminal histories.

“Do they, in fact, have any predictive value, and does their presence work against universities’ mission as engines of social mobility and diversity either by discouraging applicants or by resulting in unjustified denials of admissions on the grounds of safety or integrity?” said NYU Vice President for Enrollment Management MJ Knoll-Finn in a January 2015 letter. Knoll-Finn reportedly sent the letter to representatives of Common Application, the firm that develops the application form NYU and approximately 600 other schools currently use.

Although statistics indicate an insignificant number of applicants (fewer than 80 out of 63,000) check the “criminal history” box, some advocates believe that many more potential applicants with criminal histories may avoid applying out of fear of reprisal when they check the box.

This conversation by schools about the appropriateness of criminal history questions echoes the comments made by President Barack Obama, whose 2015 executive mandate removed such questions from federal employment applications. To date, more than 100 cities, counties and states have also “banned the box” from application forms. For a full listing, visit our Conducting Background Checks resource page.