The University of Michigan Senate Assembly is pushing back against a policy that requires current university employees to disclose felony charges and convictions.
Senate Assembly members cited various concerns with Standard Practice Guide Policy 601.38, including the belief that it causes unfair scrutiny of already vulnerable people, before voting Jan. 24 to “rescind” it.
While the Senate Assembly doesn’t have the power to rescind the policy, the university’s executive officers do. They issued the SPG three years ago under the leadership of former president Mark Schlissel. The policy is scheduled to be reviewed Feb. 1.
“We wanted to make sure we had the chance to voice our concerns as faculty before it goes up for renewal,” Senate Assembly Chair Allen Liu said.
The Senate Assembly is a legislative arm of the university’s central faculty governance system. It consists of 74 faculty members elected from the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses.
SPG 601.38 requires faculty, staff, student employees, volunteers and visiting scholars to notify the university within one week of being charged with or convicted of a felony crime. Failure to do so could result in discipline up to and including termination.
U-M officials said when the policy was enacted in 2019 that the disclosure of criminal activity would help promote safety and security and mitigate potential risk. A felony charge or conviction does not automatically disqualify an individual from employment.
During the Jan. 24 Senate Assembly meeting, professors Ashley Lucas and Heather Ann Thompson — who are both involved with the Carceral State Project, an initiative that examines criminal justice, policing and imprisonment — said SPG 601.38 is problematic for several reasons.
They said it is out-of-sync with current policies at U-M’s peer institutions, could predispose an employee’s supervisor or colleagues to make false assumptions, and has done nothing to make campus safer.
The Senate Assembly resolution passed by a vote of 51-5, with three abstentions.
“It’s very simple. It is social justice. Period,” Senate Assembly member Rogério Meireles Pinto said in favor of rescinding the policy. Pinto is a professor and associate dean for research and innovation in the School of Social Work, and professor of theatre and drama in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
U-M has removed questions from employment applications that ask job candidates about their criminal histories. The action came amid nationwide “ban the box” efforts that seek to remove bias from the hiring process.
The university still asks about criminal history as part of the pre-employment background screening that is conducted after a candidate has accepted a contingent job offer.
All this policy does is make a current employee disclose a felony conviction. As we have learned, just because they should doesn’t mean they will. Unfortunately, those already with felony convictions will never make it past a background check.