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University of Illinois considers background checks for all new employees

Published: Friday, May 2, 2014 11:54 p.m. CDT

CHAMPAIGN – The University of Illinois is developing a policy that would require background checks for all new hires, not just those who would be working with children or taking on other positions deemed to be sensitive.

The university hopes to have the expanded background sweeps in place by early next year. It has set up a working group to review the policies of similar universities, determine how much the change would cost and what steps the school should take when a “positive hit” is discovered.

Maureen Parks, the university’s associate vice president for human resources, briefed a board of trustees meeting Thursday on the plans, The Champaign News-Gazette reported.

The discussion is taking place as the university reviews a decision not to rehire an employee who is a former member of the radical 1970s group the Symbionese Liberation Army.

The employee, James Kilgore, has been working at the Urbana-Champaign campus since 2011 and currently teaches two classes, on global studies and fine and applied arts.

But Parks said the university was already pursuing the changes and began moving in this direction after the Penn State child sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Trustee Patrick Fitzgerald, a former federal prosecutor, said the university should be careful to avoid a blanket ban on hiring anyone with a past conviction, saying that the school would be “condemning an awful lot of people.”

“I am a fan of asking,” he added. “I do think we want to err on the side of knowing. I’d hate to find out someone had a violent background” after the employee was hired.

Under a 2012 policy update, the university began requiring background checks for employees who have contact with minors, those who have accuse to university funds, police officers and hospital workers.

University job applications also now ask applicants about any criminal convictions.

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