Call for Suspension of CSU Background Check Policy (HR-2015-08)

AS-3223-15/FA (Rev)

RESOLVED:  That the Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU) call for a suspension of the new CSU Background Check Policy (HR-2015-08)1; and be it further

RESOLVED:  That the ASCSU and the Chancellor’s Office establish a task force - with the participation of the California Faculty Association (CFA) and the California State Student Association (CSSA) - to study the policy and make recommendations regarding its implementation in terms of such issues as the appropriateness of background checks for specific areas of faculty responsibility on campuses; and be it further

RESOLVED:  That the ASCSU distribute this resolution to the CSU Board of Trustees, CSU Chancellor, CSU Executive Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, CSU Vice-Chancellor for Human Resources, CSU General Counsel, CSU campus Presidents, CSU campus Senate Chairs, California Faculty Association (CFA), CSU Emeritus and Retired Faculty Association (ERFA), and the California State Student Association (CSSA).

RATIONALE: The new CSU Background Check Policy (HR2015-08, effective August 3, 2015) states in part that “the CSU will conduct thorough background checks for all newly hired employees,” including “all temporary, probationary, intermittent, and at-will employees. Any current CSU employee who transfers from one campus to another will be considered a new hire. Background checks for all final candidate(s) considered for new hire will include employment verification, education verification, reference checks, and a criminal records check.”

While specific types of background checks are appropriate for specific areas of responsibility, subjecting all new faculty employees to a general background check represents an unwarranted infringement of privacy, potentially resulting in unintended consequences and unwarranted discrimination. In addition, the policy in its present general form does not appear justified by past events.

While the intent of this policy may be to protect the health and safety of the CSU community, the policy, as currently written, may present problems. Campus faculty have embarked upon searches for new faculty for the 2016/17 academic year; the broad application of the policy could prove a deterrent to attracting the strongest and most diverse candidates as well as creating a potentially negativeperception of work environment and campus climate. The ASCSU has concerns about potential delays in hiring and loss of qualified candidates.

The policy as currently written lacks specificity about who, on any given campus, will make the determination of what information is “sensitive” and/or relevant as well as how to make use of and communicate the information gleaned through background checks. The policy as written does not contain adequate provisions for protecting individuals’ rights to privacy.

In addition, there is a growing tendency nationally to proceed cautiously with background checks. The pending U.S. Senate Bill (SB) 1981 2015, Equal Employment for All Act (authored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.] and Rep. Steve Cohen [D-Tenn]) calls for a ban on the ability of employers to check the credit history of their employees  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/elizabeth-warren-credit-checks_55f82335e4b09ecde1d9a3eb, accessed Sept. 15, 2015).

More recently, on November 2, 2015, President Obama announced that his administration will require federal agencies to wait until later in the hiring process to check the criminal histories of job applicants. Nineteen states, including California, have some form of such policies (http://www.vox.com/2015/11/2/9660282/obama-ban-the-box).

This resolution calls for a joint Chancellor’s Office and ASCSU task force to make recommendations regarding areas of faculty responsibility for which specific types of background checks might be appropriate, establish criteria by which the results of anybackground check may be used in decisions concerning faculty hires or non-renewal of contingent faculty contracts, and that would contain provisos for protecting personal information.

 

Approved   November 6, 2015
 

 

 


 
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