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Geneseo Implementation of SUNY Policy on Students With Felony Convictions

In summer 2017, SUNY changed its policy on admissions of persons with prior felony convictions. This new policy, effective July 1, 2017, covers the recruitment cycle for the 2018 school year, beginning with the admission of students starting classes at SUNY schools after January 1, 2018. In this new policy, all applications for the admission of students who are seeking admission for the first time in January 2018 or later will no longer include a question regarding criminal history.

 

Since that change, this process has been implemented at Geneseo, including the public issuance of the following statement:

 

State University of New York (SUNY) policy prohibits SUNY Geneseo admission applications from inquiring into an applicant's prior criminal history. After acceptance, the College shall inquire if the student previously has been convicted of a felony if such individual seeks campus housing or participates in clinical or field experiences (possibly including some student activities), internships or study abroad programs. The information required to be disclosed under SUNY policy regarding such felony convictions shall be reviewed by a standing campus committee consistent with the legal standards articulated in New York State Corrections Law.

 

Students who have previously been convicted of a felony are advised that their prior criminal history may impede their ability to complete the requirements of certain academic programs, including studying in certain countries, and/or to meet licensure requirements for certain professions. Students who have concerns about such matters are advised to contact the Dean of Students, the Study Abroad office, the Dean of Academic Planning and Advising, or one of the deans or department chairs of their intended academic program.

 

It is the student’s responsibility to provide the requested material in a timely manner. Failure to do so could delay or preclude participation in a covered activity.

 

It is also the obligation of every student to notify the Dean of Students office or Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards of any felony or misdemeanor arrests occurring at any time after the time of application through the actual rewarding of a degree or separation from the institution, regardless of geographic location of the arrest or specific crime alleged.

 

Failure to do so may result in conduct charges by the college. The College may review the facts underlying the arrest to determine if there is a concomitant Code of Conduct policy violation.

(Pending College Council approval)

 

The process for review of applications for the non-exhaustive, aforementioned programs is as follows:

 

After an applicant has been accepted as a student, and has applied for and sought participation in a covered program or activity, Geneseo shall inquire if the student has a prior felony conviction.

If a student replies "yes" to the question of whether he/she has ever been convicted of a felony in response to an application for a covered activity, the College standing review committee shall conduct a review of such application consistent with the standards articulated in the  NYS Corrections Law, Section 753 of Article 23-A.

To facilitate its review, the campus committee shall ask the student to provide:

  • A copy of the student's unsuppressed criminal history record from the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services (or equivalent document for jurisdictions outside of NYS);
  • References from the NYS Department of Correctional Services Division of Parole or the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (for students on parole or probation status); and
  • A personal interview with the campus committee to clarify/verify this information, if necessary.

 

After evaluating all information submitted, the campus committee will decide whether to grant or deny the student's participation in the covered activity or to grant such participation subject to conditions. In the event the student fails to submit the requisite information for review in a timely manner, the campus committee may defer a decision on the student until all necessary information is received and reviewed.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is a student who discloses that he/she was convicted of a felony automatically barred from a covered activity?

A: No, a student who discloses a prior felony conviction is not automatically barred from these covered activities. However, the student must submit information regarding such prior felony conviction to the campus committee so that it can evaluate the relevance of the conviction to the covered activity sought by the student using the standards articulated in the NYS Corrections Law.

 

Q: Can a student who discloses a prior felony conviction be provided access to a covered activity pending a determination by the campus committee?

A: No. Students who disclose a prior felony conviction may not be provided access to a covered activity (including campus housing) until the campus committee has reviewed the conviction and authorized the student's participation in the covered activity.

 

Q: What information should a campus committee review to determine if a student with a prior felony conviction should be approved for participation in a covered activity?

A: The following types of information may be requested and reviewed by the campus committee:

  • Official Criminal History Record from the NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services (or equivalent agency for another jurisdiction), to be obtained by the applicant.
  • Report(s) from the applicant's probation/parole officer (if applicable), and their contact information.
  • Personal references from counselors, parole/probation officers, current or past employers, religious advisors, and others submitted at the student's discretion.

 

Q: How long should records of prior criminal history be maintained?

A: Information regarding an individual's prior criminal history will be securely stored in the Dean of Students’ office and maintained for six years after graduation or last date of attendance.

 

Q: What factors should the campus committee use when evaluating the relevance of a previous felony conviction on the covered activity being requested by a student?

Factors to be considered:

a) The public policy of this state, as expressed in this act, to encourage the licensure and employment of persons previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses.

b) The specific duties and responsibilities necessarily related to the license or employment sought or held by the person.

c) The bearing, if any, the criminal offense or offenses for which the person was previously convicted will have on his/her fitness or ability to perform one or more such duties or responsibilities.

d) The time which has elapsed since the occurrence of the criminal offense or offenses.

e) The age of the person at the time of occurrence of the criminal offense or offenses.

f) The seriousness of the offense or offenses.

g) Any information produced by the person, or produced on his/her behalf, in regard to his rehabilitation and good conduct.

h) The legitimate interest of the public agency or private employer in protecting property, and the safety and welfare of specific individuals or the general public.

 

Q: How are "study abroad," "clinical or field experience," and/or "internship" defined as areas subject to mandatory inquiry into a student's prior felony convictions?

A: For the purpose of this policy:

  • "Study Abroad" means education that occurs outside of the country that results in progress toward an academic degree at Geneseo.
  • "Internship" means applied learning experiences for which a student may earn academic credit in an agreed-upon, short-term, supervised workplace activity, which may be related to a student's major field or area of interest. The work can be full or part time, on or off campus, paid or unpaid. Internships integrate classroom knowledge and theory with practical application and skills developed in professional or community settings.
  • "Clinical or Field experience" means experiences that include hands-on application of academic theories occurring in an off-campus setting. These experiences are either required as part of an academic program or otherwise sponsored by the campus and are commonly occurring in medical, social work, teacher education and research programs.

 

Q: Are other off-campus experiences subject to mandatory inquiry into a student's prior felony convictions?

A: The list above is not exhaustive. Any off-campus experience required as part of the student's academic curriculum or otherwise sponsored or provided by the campus must be reviewed and approved by the campus committee.

 

Whether a particular activity constitutes a field experience subject to mandatory inquiry depends on the specific nature of such activity. Each activity should be individually assessed to determine whether it:

  1. is required as part of an academic program or otherwise sponsored by the campus,
  2. occurs outside of institution property, and
  3. mirrors or mimics otherwise covered activities.

Another factor that will be considered is whether the activity includes access to vulnerable populations. A single day (non-overnight) field trip will not necessarily trigger a mandatory inquiry into felony status. Non-academic overnight trips may trigger a review if they are sponsored by the school. This may include athletic or other extra-curricular activities. Other examples requiring inquiry are programs working with children, or programs with the developmentally disabled. This list is also not exhaustive.

 

Q: Are other on-campus experiences subject to inquiry into a student's prior felony convictions?

A: There are no on-campus experiences subject to a mandatory inquiry into a prior felony conviction, but there may be certain jobs or positions on campus where the supervisor may inquire into a student’s felony statusFor instance, it may apply to a student who wants to work as a Phonathon fundraising caller who takes credit or debit card numbers, a sexual assault response team driver, an orientation leader, or to a student who works in an office with access to “personally-identifiable information” like social security numbers, driver’s license data, or an individual’s biometric data.

 

The above list is not exhaustive.

 

In short, we will only ask for this information (1) when there is good reason; and (2) when the activity is something that the student can avoid.

 

Q. If a student is less than 18 yrs. old, or has a sealed or youthful offender status conviction, must they report it? 

A: It is OK to ask an underage student whether or not they have a felony conviction. But it must be made clear to the student that they do not have to release or admit to a conviction that is sealed or was granted youthful offender status.

 

Q. If a student has undergone the mandatory inquiry process, does the campus need to conduct the inquiry again for each covered activity the student seeks access to? 

A: Not necessarily. If a student has undergone the mandatory inquiry process, and been denied for say housing, they may not necessarily be denied for study abroad or an internship. So the College would have to inquire again at each application for a new experience. If it is the same experience, then the College could use previously reviewed material so long as nothing has changed.

 

It is the obligation of every student to notify the Dean of Students office or the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards of any felony or misdemeanor arrests occurring at any time after the student pays his/her/their admissions deposit through graduation (this includes summers and breaks) or separation from the institution, regardless of geographic location of the arrest or specific crime alleged.

 

Failure to do so may result in conduct charges by the college. The College may review the facts underlying the arrest to determine if there is a concomitant Code of Conduct policy violation.

 

In an effort to ensure privacy and disclosure of necessary information only, the following question should be asked for a felony inquiry.

 

Select the statement that best describes your felony status:

  1. I have never been convicted of a felony.
  2. I have been convicted of a felony but evaluated and approved for this covered activity through the campus process. (and nothing has changed)
  3. I have been convicted of a felony but evaluated and approved for this covered activity through the campus process. (but felony-wise, something has changed)
  4. I have been convicted of a felony but NOT reviewed and approved for this covered activity through the campus process.
  5. I have been convicted of a felony but denied for this covered activity through the campus process.

Please note: students do not have to release or admit to a conviction that has been sealed or was granted youthful offender status.

 

The campus will maintain relevant records in a central depository that may be referenced with ease so that a student is not unnecessarily delayed from participating in a covered activity if they have been reviewed and cleared previously.

 

If a student answers “3” or “4,” then the College would ask for the full inquiry review based on relevant criminal history records, etc.

Questions concerning this policy should be referred by by email to the Dean of Students at SUNY Geneseo.