New application process reduces felony discrimination

The SUNY Board of Trustees recently made a commendably progressive and positive change to the college application process, allowing SUNY to continue advocating for individuals’ fundamental right to education. The SUNY Board of Trustees voted to eliminate the portion of the SUNY college application that questions prospective students about their criminal history.

The New York Times reported that as of July 2017, students will not have to disclose their felony status on their SUNY college applications.

The SUNY program has 64 campuses across New York State and their mission is to provide “educational services of the highest quality, with the broadest possible access, fully representative of all segments of the population in a complete range of academic, professional and vocational postsecondary programs.” This has been their goal since their establishment in 1948, and since then, the SUNY system has done their best to offer equal-opportunity affordable higher education for many New York State residents.

In the past, however, students with a criminal record were alienated because applications required information about applicants’ criminal history. The New York Times reported that, “more than 60 percent of SUNY applicants who disclosed a felony conviction did not end up completing their applications.” The fact that students felt they could no longer achieve their college dream because of a simple question on an application is disheartening and proves that these students were not granted equal opportunity during admissions.

Making certain individuals feel alienated because of their criminal history not only affects their ability to attend a university, but also influences the rest of their lives. Higher education is a staple for most career paths, as it can grant young people a second chance that is imperative for their futures.

“Higher education represents an important stepping stone toward personal and professional fulfillment,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. This is an important milestone for the SUNY system not only on an individual level, but for society as a whole.

In general, college applications should be based on merit and academic involvement alone. In the past, students were enraged when racial, ethnic and gender-based discrimination plagued the admissions process. It is relieving that discrimination based on criminal history is being addressed just as the former was. The recent policy change for the SUNY system is instrumental in making admissions more inclusive to all students.

Those who oppose this application amendment worry that it will welcome an influx of “dangerous” individuals to SUNY schools. The SUNY Board of Trustees, however, explains that once accepted, students must disclose any felonies and undergo a screening process to gain access to certain privileges such as special academic programs, study abroad programs or on-campus living. This is a commendable compromise that allows unbiased access to basic public higher education, yet still ensures the safety of others on SUNY campuses.

The SUNY system was admirably built upon a culture of inclusion and equal opportunity; this is exactly why the recent admissions amendment is so imperative. As Geneseo students, we should be proud to be a part of a higher education system that is at the forefront of admissions equality.

The SUNY system should be commended for its recent advancements and for continuing to push boundaries to allow all New Yorkers the right to higher education.u