Criminal background checks proposed

CHAPEL HILL – Criminal background checks performed on a case-by-case basis were among the recommendations made by a University of North Carolina system task force on campus safety issues.

Several key safety recommendations were made by the 17-member Task Force on the Safety of the Campus Community in its report released Tuesday. Other recommendations included creating standardized questions regarding integrity and behavior on admissions applications, and employee training. Each campus is also recommended to have a Campus Safety Committee, among other recommendations.

UNC President Molly Corbett Broad created the task force in June following the deaths of two UNC-Wilmington students. Jessica Faulkner, 18, and Christen Naujoks, 22, were both killed earlier this year by two people who lied on their college applications to attend UNC-Wilmington.

Curtis Dixon, 21, who faced the death penalty if convicted of Faulkner’s death, died from injuries suffered on Dec. 7 when he jumped head first off a stairwell at Polk Detention Center.

John Peck, 28, who was accused in Naujoks’ death, committed suicide during a shootout with police in June in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Neither Dixon nor Peck informed UNC-Wilmington officials of their previous criminal convictions on their college applications. Dixon had a previous conviction for misdemeanor larceny. Peck pleaded guilty in 2001 to assaulting a female as well as other charges.

Peck told the Wilmington Star had he not lied on his application he would not have been admitted to UNC-Wilmington.

According to the task force’s findings, 21 students who committed a violent crime on campus had a criminal record. Of those 21 students, 13 failed to report their criminal records on their application.

Overall, the task force estimates UNC’s crime rate is one-sixth of the North Carolina crime rate, the report found. The task force’s report states from 2001-2004, the UNC campus crime rate was 70 crimes per 100,000 people. Most of the crimes committed were simple or aggravated assaults.

In 2003-04, the rate of violent crimes in North Carolina was 450 crimes per $100,000 people.

“The overwhelming majority of UNC students will never be involved with nor affected by a violent crime while enrolled,” said Bobby Kanoy, UNC senor associate vice president for academic and student affairs who chaired the task force. “However, we are determined to make sure we are doing everything reasonably within our power to ensure the safety of all our students while maintaining the University’s history commitment to access and openness. That was the purpose of this task force.”

A subcommittee looking at admissions recommended the case-by-case basis for criminal background checks. The subcommittee was led by UNC-Chapel Hill Director of Admissions Stephen Farmer, who was unavailable for comment.

The basis of the findings would create a tougher screening process for applicants to any UNC institution. Screening applications through various records would create steps to “verify the completeness and the accuracy of information provided by applicants,” the report states.

Criminal background checks will only be used if certain triggers, such as an unexplained gab in time between high school graduation and application for admission, are met. The task force argued that it would not be cost effective for a mandatory criminal background check for each applicant because of the low number of students who lied on their applications and committed a crime on campus.

“The Admissions Subcommittee concluded that given the extremely small number of students who failed to provide accurate and truthful information on their applications and went on to commit a campus crime, the widespread and routine use of criminal background checks on all students would be neither cost-effective nor significantly improve safety,” the report said.

Shannon Blosser ( is a staff writer with the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Chapel Hill.