Cal State Faculty Object to New Background Check Policy

December 8, 2015

A growing number of institutions are seeking to require background checks for employees, but a policy for the California State University System has the faculty asking to put it on hold, according to the Los Angeles Times. The policy for all new hires took effect in August and requires criminal records checks as well as verification of past employment, education and references. Credit checks also could be part of the deal for some candidates. While current employees are generally exempt from the new policy, some who change jobs within the system could be subjected to it, along with student workers and consultants. 

In a resolution last month, the systemwide Academic Senate asked Chancellor Timothy P. White to suspend the new policy and establish a task force to examine how background checks are to be used in hiring decisions across the 23 campuses. In light of faculty concerns about privacy and fears that the policy could drive away qualified candidates, administrators have said they'll monitor how the policy is working. But they haven't suspended it. They're also pointing out that the policy already has uncovered one faculty applicant’s past conviction of a lewd conduct involving a minor.

Lori Lamb, vice chancellor for human resources, told the Times, "This is exactly the reason we have this policy. … I would hate to be in my job and have something negative happen to a student or visitor and then learn a person had a conviction for that.” Lamb said the policy was developed over a two-year period with the input of the faculty union, but that they the Academic Senate is invited to participate in the monitoring process. Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania court blocked the State System of Higher Education's attempts to begin background checks for all employees as a policy that must go through collective bargaining with the faculty union, pending review by a state labor board. (Note: This story has been corrected from a previous version to note that the background check policy was not put on hold, despite the Academic Senate's request.)

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