August 11, 2010
The University of Virginia is requiring students to disclose whether they've been arrested or convicted of crimes each fall semester when they log in for the first time to the computer system that handles e-mail and course materials.
Starting this school year, students will be required to tell UVa. annually about arrests or convictions that occurred since they were admitted to the university, usually April of their senior year in high school. Failure to do so would be a violation of UVa.'s honor code, punishable by expulsion.
Since 2004, UVa. students had been required under the honor code to notify the university after arrests or convictions, but school officials left it up to students to know the policy and make the notification.
The change comes after the death of student Yeardley Love in May. Love's ex-boyfriend and fellow lacrosse player George Huguely has been charged with murder. After his arrest, it was revealed that Lexington police had arrested Huguely in 2008 after a drunken confrontation with an officer there.
University officials acknowledge the policy change has generated concerns about privacy.
"The thinking behind this was: How do we make sure that people know this is the policy and their obligation to disclose arrests," said Allen W. Groves, dean of students.
Only a small number of senior UVa. officials, such as Groves, will have access to arrest disclosures.
Groves said that if a student discloses an arrest or conviction, a senior official in Groves' office will check available court records and possibly meet with the student. When appropriate, Groves said, the student might face a referral to the university's Judiciary Committee or be required to undergo an alcohol-education class.
In the most serious cases, a student's arrest disclosure might be forwarded to U.Va.'s threat-assessment team, a confidential panel formed after the Virginia Tech mass killings in 2007 to address potential campus safety problems.
Groves said the school's new policy won't violate student-privacy laws because adult arrest and court records are already public. Any records the university generates as part of the new system would be protected by existing federal privacy laws, he said.
Students younger than 18 also will be asked to disclose whether they've been arrested since they were admitted. While underage criminal history is generally treated as confidential, Groves said he expects the students will disclose any arrests truthfully.
At Virginia Tech and the College of William and Mary, applicants must disclose arrests and convictions as part of the admissions process, but they aren't required to do so after they're admitted.