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UI shuns most background checks

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | MARCH 24, 2009 7:30 AM

The UI is the only regent university not conducting criminal background checks on all employees and not asking incoming students about their criminal backgrounds, a comparison of the three schools’ policies shows.

Last week, a UI student and staff-member was arrested on charges of third-degree sexual abuse for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old Newton girl. Andreas Benford, 28, previously had a criminal record, including a conviction for third-degree sexual abuse stemming from a 1999 incident, court records show.

Benford was suspended from the UI last week, and he no longer works at IMU information services, UI Spokesman Steve Parrott said. He said university officials could not comment further on the incident because of the on-going investigation.

If a student is arrested while attending the UI, the university can place interim sanctions on the individual while the criminal investigation is ongoing, according to the school’s policy.

University officials only conduct background checks for certain jobs, particularly those in sensitive areas or those requiring an employee to work with patients or other dependent individuals.

UI police use the same nationally linked system to conduct background checks when hiring officers as they do when making an arrest, said Charles Green, the assistant vice president for UI police. But the rest of the UI can’t use that system.

Iowa State University officials conduct checks on all employees, with the exception of temporary employees, postdoctoral appointees, and students who are employed incidental to their enrollment.

The University of Northern Iowa conducts criminal background checks on all full- and part-time employees, said Nick Bambach, UNI’s director of human resource services.

The UI is also the only one of the three state universities that doesn’t ask applicants about previous criminal convictions. Student applications ask whether the applicant has been in non-academic-related trouble at another university but doesn’t ask about “infractions in general,” Parrott said.

But ISU and UNI both ask student applicants if they have been convicted of any criminal activity, not solely those involving another university, said Phil Caffrey, the ISU senior associate director of Admissions. But in most cases, an affirmative answer will not trigger a background check unless the student’s infraction could pose a risk to campus safety, he said.

While not a universitywide policy, certain professional colleges at the UI conduct regular background checks, particularly for those who will be involved with patients in the health sciences, including the UI Carver College of Medicine.


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