“Have You Ever …

… committed a crime or sexual misconduct?”

On September 25 Inside Higher Ed reported  that the University of Wisconsin system is implementing a new policy to reveal sexual misconduct findings against any of its employees to potential future employers during reference checks, “and it wants such disclosures on its own potential hires, too.”

On September 26 Inside Higher Ed reported that Duke will no longer ask job applicants about their criminal histories.

Kyle Cavanaugh, Duke’s vice president for administration, said Duke is not disclosing harassment findings against its employees “at this time.” Presumably the University of Wisconsin will just have to take its chances if it ever hires a former Duke employee.

Cavanaugh also said that if an applicant’s criminal history is discovered later in the hiring process, “Duke will consider the crime’s ‘severity, recency — was it something that happened many years ago, or was it something that happened very recently — and, most importantly, job relatedness.’”

Presumably Duke would have no problem hiring Judge Kavanaugh, even if it were to be determined that he did engage in sexual misconduct as a high school student.


“The trends toward ban the box and disclosure of harassment findings seem potentially incongruent,” Inside Higher Ed admitted.

Potentially? Well, yes. Many observers might easily find it, er, incongruent to exclude information about past felonies (the consideration of which would have a “disparate impact”) while freely reporting findings of sexual harassment, which presumably is an equal opportunity offense.

Many academics, on the other hand, are not troubled by this incongruence, actual or potential. As Inside Higher Ed noted, “many academic advocates of ban the box say that immediately weeding out candidates with past convictions of any kind can perpetuate structural inequality. By contrast, sexual harassment by staff and faculty members is an abuse of power by those who already hold it, they say.”

Of course, “academic advocates” often engage in unwitting self-parody.

Say What?