Earlier this year, Pomona College made the decision to eliminate the requirement that applicants disclose their criminal history during the admissions process. Instead, admitted students with a criminal history will be asked to disclose the nature of their crimes to an admissions committee prior to enrollment. However, Pomona would not automatically rescind admissions of admitted sutdents who have committed sexaul offenses or violent crime.
Pomona did not clarify whether violent crimes, including murder and sexual assault, would be considered grounds for an automatic rescinding of an admissions offer. When asked by the Independent whether this would be the case, Pomona responded that “[a]s part of the College’s admissions process, a committee that includes Pomona College admissions officers, staff and faculty convenes to review affirmative responses to the criminal history question.” No further details were provided regarding how violent crimes and sexual assault would be considered.
According to the Office on Women’s Health, one in five women experiences sexual assault in college. Per the government organization’s website, “students are at the highest risk of sexual assault in the first few months of their first and second semesters in college.” A study by the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking showed that “[o]bserved recidivism rates of sex offenders are underestimates of actual reoffending.” The same study found that “the average overall recidivism rate was 27.9 percent for treated sex offenders and 39.2 percent for untreated sex offenders.” Meanwhile, according to the United States Sentencing Commission, “[v]iolent offenders [recidivate] at a higher rate than non-violent offenders.”
Until 2018, the Common Application, the single form students can use to apply to most colleges, required students to disclose and explain their criminal history as part of the application process. The nonprofit organization behind the Common Application removed that requirement in 2018, but individual colleges can include it on their specialized application pages. Under Pomona’s new policy, admitted students will be asked to disclose any criminal history prior to enrollment. “[I]f the student answers the criminal history question affirmatively, the individual is asked to provide a detailed explanation. Each case is evaluated on its own merits and a thorough assessment is conducted.”
Other elite colleges continue to require that applicants disclose their criminal history during the admissions process. Columbia University states that the purpose of this policy is “to help ensure the safety and well-being of members of the College community.” Prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Williams, and Amherst have similar policies.
Pomona College is a member of the Claremont Consortium. None of the other four schools in the consortium have removed the criminal history requirement from their application process, though Pitzer and Claremont McKenna Colleges are considering taking the same step.
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