Letter to the Editor Kutztown University needs criminal background checks on incoming students

Dear Editor;

In the March 28 Patriot article entitled “Sen. Schwank, PASSHE respond to assaults on KU Campus”, I read about Senator Judy Schwank’s expression of concern to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Board of Governors about what “concrete steps” are being taken to better protect their students. Speaking more about our local events, Senator Schwank stated that “I am concerned that these incidents in and around Kutztown University represent an alarming and growing trend of criminal activity, which endangers students, especially female students, and local residents alike.”

The residents of the Borough of Kutztown know all too well about the growing number of student incidents of violence, vandalism, and disorderly behavior not only on KU’s campus but in their neighborhoods as well.

It is time for Kutztown University to include a criminal background check for all accepted students! There are a number of compelling reasons for a college to consistently check for student criminal records. In addition to keeping its campus safer against acts of violence, this preventive measure can protect a college’s reputation, enhance a college’s recruiting potential, and safeguard a college against potential law suits.

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However, many colleges are reactive, rather than proactive. For example, the University of North Carolina (UNC) didn’t require its 16 campuses to conduct criminal checks on students until after the murder of a female student by a classmate with a long record of violence against women. Thereafter, UNC adopted a detailed policy requiring student criminal background checks in 2006. It shouldn’t take a campus tragedy for every college to get more serious about protecting students from potentially dangerous criminals.

All students should be informed on their KU applications that past or current criminal incidents involving violence, weapons, and drugs would be considered sufficient to void their acceptance to the University.

Also, University personnel should explore unexplained gaps in the applicants’ school careers. Any policy adopted by KU should be comprehensive and should provide for staff training to insure that the policy is properly enforced.

Conducting criminal background checks on all accepted students to KU would provide an additional layer of oversight/protection to the entire University community (students, parents, staff, and faculty) as well as to the residents of the Borough. Certainly, no one thinks that it is acceptable for a university to admit/invite students with known criminal backgrounds to participate in its learning community, to live in its residence halls, and to engage in the residential/business aspects of the adjacent small rural town.

I encourage everyone, who is concerned about the safety of both our students and our residents, to express their opinion to the members of Kutztown’s Borough Council and to the President of Kutztown University. And, I encourage everyone to thank Senator Schwank for her efforts to increase the level of protection for both our University students and for our residents.

Sincerely,

Lisa Ladd-Kidder, resident of Kutztown