Senator to SUNY: Drop felony policy

State Senator Wants Felonies Reported by Applicants

ALBANY -- Days after the State University of New York passed legislation to no longer ask prospective students of prior felony convictions, a state senator is trying to reverse the decision.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Cathy Young, R- Olean, Cattaraugus County, was introduced Friday that calls for SUNY to reverse its Wednesday vote to let applicants skip reporting a felony conviction when they apply to the public college system.

"This not only protects the SUNY system and the state taxpayers, but also protects the students, the faculty, the staff and everyone who's on campus," Young said on Sunday to 2 On Your Side. "And parents and students have a very reasonable expectation to be able to be protected while they're going to college." 

The bill would require each SUNY applicant to declare if they have been convicted of a felony in either New York or in the country.

Young said said she may amend her bill to only apply to "violent felonies" rather than all felony crimes in general Sunday. 

Applicants would also have to describe the offense and when it took place, which had been the policy before it was changed.

Young said the SUNY board's decision was shocking, calling it “political correctness run amuck.”

She said admitting students convicted of a felony could put other students at risk, especially if the previous convictions were for assault or rape.

“Sex offenders have a high rate of repeating their crimes, and they [SUNY] are lumping people who may have shoplifted in with violent criminals," Young said. "That’s not acceptable."

SUNY declined comment on Young's bill, referring back to its comments on Wednesday. The bill had no immediate Assembly sponsor, and the legislative session doesn't resume until January.

Starting next fall, SUNY said its applications would no longer include a box requiring an applicant to detail any prior felony convictions -- part of the so-called "ban the box" movement.

After admission to a SUNY institution, students will only be asked to reveal a prior conviction if they are seeking on-campus housing, studying abroad or looking to participate in field experience or internships.

“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 in a statement.




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