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Background checks not required for dorm residents

With the growing number of students at TJC and the new addition of the Louise H. and Joseph Z. Ornelas residence hall, the safety of the students in the dorms and on campus is a growing concern for some students.

With roughly 1,000 students now living on campus coming from various backgrounds and experiences, some of the recent fights and incidents on campus may be inevitable.

In the month of October alone, Campus Safety responded to 24 different dorm disturbances.

But are background checks a good, viable option for monitoring the students that a college or university allows to live on campus?

All dorm applicants are required to answer one question about their criminal background on the student housing application for TJC. The question asks whether the applicant has been convicted of a felony or subjected to deferred adjudication on a felony charge.

“We do have ways of performing background checks, but we haven’t had a student answer ‘yes’ on the application,” said Angela Nunez, TJC housing director.

Any students who answer’s “yes” to this question on the application would be handled on a “case by case basis” said Melody Huff, area coordinator of Residential Life and Housing.

“TJC has an open door policy and is not looking to find anything,” Huff said.

If a student were to answer “yes” to the housing question, Nunez said, “I would ask to speak to them, preferably in person, if they are available, and we would then do a background check on that student and base our decision on that.”

Several students said that they would understand the reasons that a college or university would choose to perform background checks.

“For one reason if they did do that, it would be done for our safety and it would not bother me,” said freshman Derrick Hampton, resident of Lewis Hall.

Other students feel that it would make the dorms not just safer, but also a better place for them to live and learn.

“I think that we should have background checks so that we would be safer in the dorms and maybe would have more responsible residents,” said student Megan Dauman, Ornelas resident.

Other colleges may be considering adding background checks as a tool to monitor who they are allowing to live on campus housing.

“We don’t have a criminal history question on the application, but we are in the process of redoing our on-campus housing application,” said Stephen F. Austin State University Housing Specialist Donna Hammond.

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