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State University of New York “Bans the Box” on Student Applications

On September 14, 2016, the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York voted to “ban the box” from the school’s student application form. The move revised the university’s prior policy which required applicants to declare any felony convictions. The new policy requires prospective students to declare any felonies only after they have been granted admission, and then only when seeking on-campus housing, clinical or field experiences, study abroad programs or internships.

The change resulted from a student-initiated resolution by the SUNY Student Assembly which recommended that “criminal history screenings should only be implemented after a student has been admitted, and [ ] they should never be used to revoke admission.” The national Ban the Box movement also carried heavy weight with the Board of Trustees.

“The State University of New York is committed to providing all New Yorkers the broadest possible access to quality public higher education,” said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall, “including those who have succeeded through the justice system following a felony conviction.”

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher added, “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. Thank you to the many students, faculty, and staff across SUNY whose critical feedback led to today’s resolution.”

In an announcement on May 9, 2016, U.S. Department of Education Secretary John B. King asked colleges and universities to stop asking prospective students about their criminal records during the initial application process.

“We believe in second chances and we believe in fairness,” he said. “We must ensure that more people ... have the chance at higher education opportunities.”


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