As summer winds down, EBI is saying goodbye to one of our interns, Justin Welfeld. Justin is a rising high school junior who joined us to learn about our business and practice his writing skills. Since Justin is about to start his college search, we asked him to write about the increase in background checks on prospective students for college applicants. Here is his take.
Background Checks on College Applicants
By Justin Welfeld
Following a recent surge in violence on college campuses, many colleges have adopted background screening as a means of creating safer school environments. By conducting background screens on students, colleges gain invaluable information about the school community thus improving campus security. However, many argue that these screenings not only threaten applicants’ privacy, but also endanger the “openness” of college life.
With campus violence rising throughout the country, many colleges have begun utilizing background screening as a standard precautionary measure. Although these checks rarely uncover much useful information, this proactive approach ensures that colleges do not accept students with violent histories. Since dangerous students are “weeded out” from the school community, students and parents alike can enjoy the peace of mind of a safe environment. This sense of comfort can boost a school’s reputation and quickly translate into a more productive educational system. Besides promoting safety, preforming background checks also strengthens a college’s defense against possible negligent retention lawsuits if an act of violence should occur.
As a junior in high school currently exploring colleges, I value the concept of both conducting background checks on students and maintaining a safe school environment. However, I understand how these two might not go hand-in-hand. Some students might see this as an invasion of privacy, and nothing stops an apparently “safe” applicant from committing his first act of violence on campus. The Virginia Tech shooter killed over 30 other students on campus before taking his own life, and had he been screened prior to his admission to the school, he would have seemed like a perfectly normal adult.
While screening compromises personal privacy, carefully using this information is vital to the security of college campuses everywhere. However, if colleges do gain access to this personal information, strict rules and regulations must be established to ensure the content of these checks is treated sensitively.
The security of our college campuses hinges on the unknown variables, the students, which make up the school community. Although some prioritize their personal privacy over instituting and broadening standard background screenings, background checks remain the only way to investigate these variables and determine their volatility before introducing them into systems with tens of thousands of aspiring young adults.