On Aug 1, 2016 NYU will begin ignoring the broadly phrased questions about criminal and disciplinary history on the universal section of the Common Application in the coming admissions cycle.
On Aug 1, 2016 NYU will begin ignoring the broadly phrased questions about criminal and disciplinary history on the universal section of the Common Application in the coming admissions cycle. Instead, the University will add narrower questions to the NYU section of the application that ask applicants if they have been convicted of or disciplined for violent incidents.
NYU received over 63,000 applications in the most recent admissions cycle; NYU’s applicant pool – both for early decision and regular decision – is one of the largest in the nation among both private and public universities. NYU receives about 10 applications for each seat in its freshman class.
As was the case previously with the Common App “checkbox,” answering “yes” to the new question will not be an automatic bar to admission at NYU. NYU will use the same approach it began using this year: applications will be read without awareness of whether an applicant has answered “yes” to the new question; after a preliminary admissions decision has been made, applications will be reviewed to see which admitted students answered “yes,” and the University will seek more information from those students about their convictions.
MJ Knoll-Finn, NYU’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, said, “Since NYU took up this issue we have been constantly working to seek a balance between two principles: keeping our campus safe and ensuring that NYU gives people a second chance and lives up to its mission as an engine of social mobility.
“Last year we took two key steps: we revised our own admission approach to do a ‘box blind’ first reading, and we urged the Common App organization to undertake a broad, objective research project to determine the value -- and downsides -- of the criminal history question on the Common App.
“We’re pleased that the Common Application has agreed to undertake such research this coming year. In the meantime, NYU took a look at the NYU disciplinary records of enrolled students who had checked the box against the overall undergraduate NYU population. We found no meaningful differences in the rates of infractions.
“Whether this outcome is because our evaluation process worked as it should – i.e., screened out those who posed a safety risk – or whether it was because the ‘checkbox’ doesn’t really have predictive value is an open question, one that requires more research, such as the project the Common App is undertaking.
“Regardless, the findings caused us to pose questions to ourselves: in terms of our responsibility to keep the campus safe, what information do we really want and need to know? Do we need to know everything encompassed by the Common App question, which includes questions about all high school disciplinary actions and criminal incidents?
“We decided the answer was ‘no.’ What concerned us most was the prospect of violent crime. And so we concluded that a narrower question – one specifically focused on violent crime – made more sense. If someone has committed a violent crime, we want to know and want to have an opportunity to get more information from the applicant, judge the context, and evaluate whether there might be ongoing safety concerns for our campus.
“We will continue to evaluate our admissions process in order to strike the right balance between giving people a second chance through higher education and keeping our campus safe. And notwithstanding the announcement we are making today, we still look forward to participating in and seeing the findings from the Common App’s wide-ranging research study on this matter.”
The Common Application is used by approximately 600 colleges and universities, and approximately 850,000 students use it annually to apply to college. It was created to increase access to college admissions by allowing applicants to fill out one form rather than different forms for each institution. The Common App includes the following language:
“Have you ever been found responsible for a disciplinary violation at any educational institution you have attended from the 9th grade (or the international equivalent) forward, whether related to academic misconduct or behavioral misconduct, that resulted in a disciplinary action? These actions could include, but are not limited to: probation, suspension, removal, dismissal, or expulsion from the institution.
“Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor, felony, or other crime? Note that you are not required to answer ‘yes’ to this question, or provide an explanation, if the criminal adjudication or conviction has been expunged, sealed, annulled, pardoned, destroyed, erased, impounded, or otherwise required by law or ordered by a court to be kept confidential.”
In March 2015, NYU revised its admissions procedures: all applications would first be evaluated without awareness of which applicants “checked the box” indicating a criminal or disciplinary history. Only after initial admissions were made would admissions officers go back and determine which accepted applicants had checked the box. Those that had are evaluated by a team of admissions officers – specially trained on fact-based assessment and issues of bias – to determine whether a past criminal offense would justify a denial of admission.
In January 2016, NYU wrote the Common App organization posing questions about the predictive value of the checkbox questions and urged it to undertake an objective, wide-ranging research study. In spring 2016, the Common App organization indicated it would undertake such a study.
On August 1, 2016, the application for freshmen entering in fall 2017 will become available. That application will include the following language:
NYU is committed to treating applicants with a criminal or disciplinary history fairly and with dignity and respect. In keeping with this outlook, NYU will ignore any answers you provided to the earlier questions on the Common Application regarding your criminal and disciplinary history because we believe them to be too broad.
Instead, we would ask that you provide answers to the two, more focused questions below, which we think are more relevant to the issues of campus safety.
NYU is committed to reducing barriers to a second chance through education, and answering “yes” to either of these questions is NOT an automatic bar to admission to NYU. So, we therefore strongly urge you to complete this application. NYU will review the information you provide using our “two-step” approach (HYPEPRLINK to two-step approach).
Within the last seven years after the age of 14, have you ever been convicted at trial, or pled guilty to, a criminal offense involving violence, physical force or the threat of physical force, a sexual offense, possession of a weapon, kidnapping, arson or any offense which caused physical harm to another person? You should answer “no” if your conviction has been sealed, expunged, or overturned or if you were arrested but not convicted.
Bottom of Form
Have you ever been found guilty of a disciplinary violation at your previous high school, college or university for any act involving violence, physical force or the threat of physical force, a sexual offense, possession of a weapon, kidnapping, arson or any offense which caused physical harm to another person?
If you answer yes to either or both of these questions, please provide NYU’s special admissions committee a written explanation about what happened, including details regarding the charges of which you were convicted or found guilty and the punishment you received, including fines, community service, jail, prison, suspension, expulsion etc. The committee is particularly interested in learning more about the process of change you have undergone after these events and what you may have learned from these experiences.
In addition, new language will be added to the admissions section of the NYU website:
Applicants with a Criminal History
NYU is one of roughly 600 colleges and universities that uses the Common Application, which asks students in the universal section of the Common App if they have been convicted of a crime or committed school disciplinary infractions.
At NYU, we believe in second chances, and we are sensitive to the deep concerns many people have about the fairness of our justice system and whether it equitably serves all members of our society. We want to balance these issues with our duty to ensure a safe environment for our community.
As a result, we have developed a review process that we believe strikes a balance between giving people a second chance through higher education and keeping our campus safe. We review all candidates for admission holistically and never automatically deny admission to those with a criminal conviction. Academic qualifications are the primary consideration of our holistic evaluation process, which also includes an analysis of one’s extracurricular accomplishments, work experience, letters of recommendation, essays, personal characteristics, talents, and life experiences.
Our Admission Process
NYU is committed to treating applicants with a criminal or disciplinary history fairly and with dignity and respect. In keeping with this outlook, NYU is making certain changes beginning with the 2016-17 admissions cycle (for admission in fall 2017):
· Ignoring the questions on the universal section of the Common App: NYU will ignore any answers applicants provide to the questions in the main section of the Common Application regarding criminal and disciplinary history because we believe them to be too broad. Instead, we ask two more-focused questions in our supplementary section that we think are more relevant to the issues of campus safety.
· “Box Blind” first reading: All applications for traditional undergraduate admission are initially reviewed by admission officers without knowledge of whether they have “checked the box” in the NYU section of the application indicating a criminal or disciplinary history that involves violence or physical harm.
· Special Committee Review: Once an initial evaluation is completed, and if a positive recommendation by an admission officer based on our holistic review is proposed, the applications of those who indicate a criminal history in their applications are reviewed by a special review committee. This special review committee includes admission officers, university staff, and faculty trained to perform an assessment based on a multi-factor analysis to fairly determine whether a past criminal offense justifies denial of admission. This special review committee is responsible for making a final determination about admission. Candidates are then notified of their admission decision.
As we indicated previously, answering “yes” to NYU’s questions is not an automatic bar to admission. NYU reviews candidates holistically and will seek to understand the context of any “yes” answers. So, we strongly urge applicants to complete their applications regardless of whether they answered “yes.”