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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

U Of I Begins Background Checks For New Hires Starting Next Month

University of Illinois / illinois.edu

The University of Illinois will perform background checks on every new hire, beginning in October.

The school's board of trustees voted to approve the policy yesterday at its meeting in Urbana.

Board member Pat Fitzgerald, a former federal prosecutor, says the background checks aren't meant to preclude applicants with a criminal record.

"If there are people who've had issues that don't make them appropriate to be around minors, et cetera, we should know that,” Fitzgerald said. “So this is not to say that people who have had experience with the criminal justice system won't get hired, it's simply to make sure we make informed decisions."

The U of I will only conduct background checks after a job offer has been made, but before a potential employee is forwarded to the Board of Trustees for final approval. Currently, the school only conducts background checks for those in security-sensitive positions.

Despite assurances that background checks won't automatically eliminate a candidate from a job search, some professors worried the prospect of background checks may discourage applicants with a criminal history.

The policy comes a year after adjunct professor James Kilgore's criminal past with the Symbionese Liberation Army was widely reported, and his contract was not renewed, then ultimately reinstated. But the background check update has been in the works for nearly two years.

Meisel works for Capitol News Illinois.