SUNY Trustees start student committee; “ban the box” regarding felony self-identification

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The State University of New York Board of Trustees today established a Student Life Committee, which will hold its first official meeting when the Board meets again in November.

The Committee will be co-chaired by the president of the SUNY Student Assembly, who also serves as a voting member of the SUNY Board, and Trustee Eunice A. Lewin.

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“The Student Life Committee of the SUNY Board of Trustees will strengthen our connection to our most important audience—SUNY students,” said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. “Co-chaired by a new SUNY student every year, the committee will provide oversight and policy direction on issues directly related to the student experience, including safety and security, health and wellness, child care, financial aid, athletics, and much more. I look forward to hearing from the committee.”

“Shared governance is a must in higher education and there is no voice that carries further than that of our students,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “I commend Chairman McCall and the SUNY trustees for re-establishing the Student Life Committee, which will renew our commitment to excellence in the programs and services that affect our students most.”

“The creation of this committee is indicative of a growing trend in the SUNY system, one that gives students a seat at the table,” said current President of the SUNY Student Assembly Marc J. Cohen. “SUNY students now have a board committee that is wholly dedicated to improving their education and college experience. More than just a feel good initiative, this committee will be led by students in perpetuity. We have a very real opportunity to advance a strong student agenda and improve the way that SUNY does business. I’m looking forward to working with all of our student governments to continue our work from this new platform” 

Cohen serves as a voting member of the SUNY Board of Trustees by virtue of his role as president of the SUNY Student Assembly. He was democratically elected by his peers at the Student Assembly’s bi-annual conference, which brings together student government representatives from across all of SUNY’s 64 campuses.

Also:

The State University of New York Board of Trustees today voted to “ban the box” from its general application, revising SUNY policy that previously required student applicants to declare prior felony convictions. Instead, students will be asked to declare a prior felony conviction post-admission and only when they seek campus housing or participation in clinical or field experiences, internships, or study abroad programs.

Today’s action follows a national “Ban the Box” movement as well as a SUNY Student Assembly resolution recommending that “criminal history screenings should only be implemented after a student has been admitted, and that they should never be used to revoke admission.”

“The State University of New York is committed to providing all New Yorkers the broadest possible access to quality public higher education, including those who have succeeded through the justice system following a felony conviction,” said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. “Thank you to Trustee Marc Cohen and the SUNY Student Assembly for their leadership on this important issue. I am confident that we have found precisely the right balance of inquiry to uphold our commitments to college access and student safety.”

“Today’s policy revision is a milestone achievement for SUNY, one that positions our university system as a leader in what has become a national movement to expand access and educational opportunity for individuals with a felony history,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “Thank you to the many students, faculty, and staff across SUNY whose critical feedback led to today’s resolution.”

“Being part of a system that changes lives, it’s important to remember that every student deserves a chance at a great life,” said Student Assembly President and Trustee Marc Cohen. “The stigma behind criminal offenses might be part of a student’s past, but we, the SUNY Student Assembly, believe in a path forward. I am proud of the hard work and dedication my colleagues have put into eliminating convictions from the general admission process.”

At the direction of the SUNY Board of Trustees last year, and following increasing state and national calls for the elimination of pre-admission inquiries into a student applicant’s prior criminal history, SUNY established a Ban the Box Workgroup comprised of system and campus representatives, to evaluate its admissions policies and practices. Today’s resolution reflects the workgroup’s recommendations as well as concerns raised by the SUNY Student Assembly. 

The workgroup will continue its discussions and support campuses as they implement the revised policy over the next year, with system-wide adoption slated for the 2018 admissions cycle. 

Also today, the Obama Administration announced that 61 higher education institutions and systems have committed to take the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge, joining the 25 signatories – including SUNY – that took the pledge when it was first announced in June. The White House pledge calls on businesses and higher education institutions throughout the country to eliminate barriers for individuals with criminal records.

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