A new bill proposed to state lawmakers would allow Texas public colleges and universities to access criminal background information on students who apply to live on campus.
Senate Bill 471, one of several pieces of legislation proposed by state lawmakers for the new legislative session, would allow any public institution of higher education to obtain criminal history records from the Department of Public Safety for the purpose of evaluating students who apply to live in on-campus housing.
“We would not make it a requirement,” said Jeff Nelson, a legislative aide to state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, who introduced the bill. “It would just give them the opportunity to access that information.”
According to the bill’s language, the criminal records and information would be accessible only to the institution’s chief of police and housing office.
In addition, the language states that the information can only be used to evaluate applications for on-campus housing, and must be destroyed “as soon as practicable” at the beginning of the academic period for which the person’s housing application was submitted.
If passed, the bill would
affect at least one local college. Central Texas College’s Killeen campus, which features dorm housing as well as apartments for married students, would fall under the auspices of the proposed legislation.
The college does not currently conduct criminal background checks on students who apply to live in its on-campus housing. However, applicants are asked if they have any felony convictions.
“Also, all of our resident students are checked on the National Sex Offender Public website,” said Bruce Vasbinder, a spokesman for the college. “The issue of criminal background checks is something we have been discussing prior to the legislative bill.”
Currently, 57 students are living in the dorms at CTC, with more scheduled to arrive as the semester gets under way, Vasbinder said. All 51 units of the college’s married-student housing are currently occupied.
CTC isn’t the only institute of higher education that does not currently run such criminal background checks on students seeking on-campus housing.
The University of Texas-Austin also does not run checks on students seeking to live in its on-campus housing.
“We only run (criminal) background checks on staff and student workers,” said Joshua Cook, a spokesman for the university’s department of student affairs.
The proposed bill was introduced by Williams in early December. The state’s legislative website shows no further action had been taken on the proposed bill as of Monday.