Despite revelations that a graduate student and two current University employees are registered sex offenders, University officials say that a criminal conviction will still not prohibit admission or employment at Penn.
Last week, University officials discovered that Kurt Mitman, a first-year Economics graduate student serving a jail sentence for child-molestation charges, was commuting from a Bucks County prison as part of an academic-release program.
Two University employees were also discovered to be on the Megan's Law Web site as registered sex offenders, which has led to a University review of their employment status.
But School of Arts and Sciences graduate-admissions coordinator Patricia Rea said yesterday that Mitman's revelation as a sex offender will not change admissions policy, which includes full consideration for felons by the admission committee.
"Our policy is that we're not going to discriminate against anyone with a criminal background without investigating what it is," Rea said.
The in-house application to all of Penn's graduate programs was replaced in September by a system called "Apply Yourself," which includes a criminal background check not present on the previous application, Rea said.
Undergraduate admissions applications already contained a similar section.
The decision to add a criminal-background question to the graduate applications did not result from any criminal incident, said Jack Nagel, associate dean for graduate studies.
On the contrary, the criminal background check was just a standard question under the new "Apply Yourself" system, Rea said.
Mitman applied in December 2005, when the question relating to an applicant's criminal background was not included.
At the time, Nagel said, the admissions committee had no way of knowing that his application was being sent from a Bucks County prison because only a street address was listed.
Admissions officers were unaware that this address corresponded to the Bucks County facility where Mitman is being held.
Had admissions officers known that Mitman was applying from prison, Nagel said they still would have considered his application in much the same way that an applicant with no criminal record might be considered.
"With respect to people with criminal backgrounds, generally, . we should not automatically bar someone who is an ex-offender," Nagel said.
He said applicants with a criminal record might be rejected due to "obligations for the safety of our students and our community."
As for University employees, University spokeswoman Lori Doyle agreed that "a criminal conviction alone is not reason to deny employment."
"We look at these on a case-by-case basis, and the decision on whether or not to hire is based on job relevance," she said.
Doyle added that the University currently performs criminal background checks on most of its full- and part-time staff members, though officials are looking into strengthening its hiring procedures.
Penn does not perform criminal background checks on faculty members, a practice in line with other Ivy League schools, Doyle said.
Mitman pled guilty in March 2005 to involuntary deviate sexual-intercourse charges with a 14-year-old boy and was sentenced to two-and-a-half to five years in prison.
He was later permitted to enroll in Bucks County's academic-release program and began attending Penn in September 2006.
- Staff members Stephen Morse and Sharon Udasin contributed reporting to this article.Comments powered by Disqus
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