College students are likely sitting in class with criminals, according to a recent study.
MyBackgroundCheck.com, a leading supplier of background checks for students and faculty, found that one out of every 29 college students has a previous criminal record.
The nationwide study of 13,859 students consisted of 125 universities, career colleges, nursing schools and other educational institutions. Only criminal convictions were included in the results, and juvenile records were excluded.
According to the study, 60 percent of college students have been convicted of driving violations. The next highest conviction rate was that of disorderly conduct — another misdemeanor — at 9.5 percent.
Theft, drug possession, sexual abuse and assault made up the middle of the pack. The felonies of fraud and child molestation were revealed as the lowest for college students — at 2.7 and 2.4 percent, respectively.
Paul Denton, chief of the Ohio State Police, said students aren’t the problem at OSU.
“It’s a common misconception that we deal with a large number of students,” Denton said. “Proportionally, our law enforcement contact is with people from outside the university.”
Denton said the crimes that OSU Police most commonly deal with are no different than anywhere else.
“Theft is number one. Traffic violations is certainly high on the list,” Denton said.
Others include drunken driving and disorderly conduct.
“You could ask any police agency what it deals with, and these would be at the top of the list,” Denton said.
Renee Sabo, a fourth-year in communication, had mixed emotions about the results of the new study.
“It seems highly unlikely to have a child molester in the same class as you, and it doesn’t really make me uncomfortable to associate with someone who had a driving violation,” Sabo said. “However, it is a bit chilling that there is a possibility of sitting next to a serious criminal.”
At OSU there are security measures in place in the admissions process.
Mabel Freeman, assistant vice president of Undergraduate Admissions, said both freshman and transfer applicants must answer in their application whether they have pled guilty, been convicted of or currently have a felony charge pending against them, but there is no question regarding misdemeanors.
“We do not ask about those. A traffic issue can be a misdemeanor,” Freeman said. “Most universities that ask a question of this nature on their applications are usually referring to felonies.”
Applicants who answer yes to the felony question are asked to provide further information to the university.
“In cases where the felony charge stands or there is an actual felony conviction, we then review the situation with a university committee that includes representation from the Student Life judicial office, University Police, university legal services, Counseling and Consultation Services, Residence Life and Undergraduate Admissions,” Freeman said.
Police use criminal records to verify what applicants say about their crimes, Denton said.
Freeman said that if the committee agrees that the applicant poses no harm to other students or campus, he or she goes through the standard admissions process.
Of the 30,000 applications received for Summer and Autumn quarters 2009, Freeman said that 86 applicants answered yes to the felony question — a number very similar to the applications for the 2008-2009 academic year.
“For the application population as a whole, we end up enrolling slightly less than one-third of the applicants,” Freeman said. “You can see how small the number of enrolling students with a felony charge or conviction would be.
“Obviously, we do not come close to anything like one in 29, but again, we are only tracking felonies,” Freeman said.
Silas Jiang, a second-year in microbiology and psychology, is not particularly surprised about the study results.
“While I strongly believe that many of these problems can be reduced, I do not think that the study is worth rising in arms and having a large protest around campus,” Jiang said. “Despite society’s best efforts, it will always be impossible to eliminate all crimes.”