Students received an email from Dean of Students and Director of the Center for Community Leonard Sancilio on Monday Jan. 28 detailing an update to the Student Code of Conduct.
The update includes an added section explaining that every student is obligated to notify the Dean of Students office and the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards of any felony or misdemeanor arrests occurring between the time they applied to the college and their graduation, regardless of whether or not the arrest took place at Geneseo.
Sancilio explained how and why this new policy will be affecting Geneseo students.
“The State University of New York got involved with an initiative called ‘delete the box,’ which was a response to inquiries about fairness for folks who has felonies on their records,” Sancilio said. “The belief was there was a barrier for people applying that they wouldn’t be able to attend college.”
The “box” Sancilio spoke of describes the section of the SUNY application that asks applicants to select a box if they have criminal history. SUNY voted on the issue of asking applicants to declare prior felony convictions when applying to one of the sixty-four campuses and deemed it to be removed on Sep. 14, 2016, according to document number 3200 from the SUNY Enrollment office.
“We had a committee look at the SUNY policy, and adopt what is now Geneseo Implementation of SUNY Policy on Students with Felony Convictions,” Sancilio said. “This is what became known as ‘move the box’ to applications within the college for student teaching, study abroad and other participation with other students require that you inform us of your criminal history.”
It is the responsibility of the college to create policies that collect felony information from students through parameters such as housing applications, study abroad or clinical and field experiences and internship, according to SUNY policy.
“Just by saying you were arrested doesn’t really prevent you from doing anything here on campus,” Sancilio said. “It is just the opportunity for a student explain their situation. This policy is not applicable for students who are on-conviction, just on-arrest.”
If students do not comply and notify the school within five business days of their criminal history, they may face a conduct charge from the college, according to the email update. The college also reserves the right to review the facts underlying the arrest.
“If somebody were found not guilty of a criminal charge, we could still go through the code of conduct and look into the case,” Sancilio said. “Just because something isn’t a violation of the law, doesn’t mean it is not a violation of our code. For code of conduct violations, we do not use ‘innocent’ and ‘not innocent,’ or use reasonable doubt, but rather ‘responsible’ or ‘not responsible.’”
According to Geneseo Implementation of SUNY Policy on Students with Felony Convictions, the campus committee may ask the student to be interviewed to clarify information, provide a copy of their unsuppressed criminal history, references for the NYS Department of Correctional Services Division of Parole or the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives.
Sociology major sophomore Chris Downs explained why he doesn’t favor the policy.
“I feel that this policy is really undermining,” Downs said. “If I have been convicted of a felony and it isn’t associated with the school, why should I have to notify the school? Not that I have, but if somebody had, I feel that this policy is unfair to them.”
If a student goes through the conduct system and has a level I or level II conduct review, there is an appeal process available, according to the Office of the Dean of Students. A new board would meet to hear the appeal.
“It makes me very angry because kids have gotten into trouble for large things, like sexual assault but not actually gotten in trouble [with the college]” biology major sophomore Alex Frank said. “If he is going to send an email out about previous convictions that didn’t occur on campus, he should rather focus on [the convictions] that did.”
Sociology major sophomore Macaire Lisicki voiced her opinion on the policy.
“I see nothing wrong with the school asking students to inform them of their criminal history,” Lisicki said. “It’s not like the college is trying to harm anybody, it seems they are actually trying to do the opposite.”
Research published by SUNY shows that a majority of candidates who are asked to disclose prior felony convictions on SUNY admissions applications do not complete the process.