Students continue campaign to ban the box on college apps


Grace Halio

What is the box and why are NYU students in such vehement opposition to it?

Yeho Hwang, Contributing Writer

NYU students protested outside the Jeffrey S. Gould Welcome Center on Friday to abolish the box on college applications that ask applicants to disclose any prior or current criminal standing as part of a movement led by the student-run Incarceration to Education Coalition.

Steinhardt alum Cory Greene stated that there is no statistical proof as to how the box guarantees better safety for the school. Greene said he was formerly involved in a homicide, but was able to attend NYU and is using his experience to advocate humanizing formerly and currently incarcerated individuals. He is pushing for higher education to be available for all people.

“Over the last thirty years when you look at all of this evidence, the box doesn’t indicate anything towards campus safety or public safety,” Greene said. “It doesn’t indicate anything about who’s going to graduate at which rate people are going to graduate.”

At the end of October, the Fair Chance Act went into effect in New York City, meaning that job applicants would no longer have to disclose criminal history until the final stages of the hiring process. Then, on Nov. 3, President Obama enacted an order banning the box on all federal job applications.

“We’ve got to make sure Americans who have paid their debt to society can earn their second chance,” Obama said at the time.

Gallatin sophomore Aaliyah Jihad, the operation chair for Black Student Union, said the box translates into systemic racism.

“It unjustly, or disproportionately, punishes people of color, so it perpetuates the racism that mass incarceration is producing,” Jihad said. “It’s unfair to punish people who have already been punished.”

After about an hour and a half of demonstrating a sit-in at the Welcome Center on Friday, IEC members were able to meet with university administrators, although members of the coalition claimed that talks until this point have not been substantial. According to Gallatin senior Shirley LaVarco who attended the protest, several other administrators came to observe the scene.

“There was this procession of administrators, which included Marc Wais, the head of student affairs,” LaVarco said. “They waited outside while [Senior VP for Public Affairs] Lynne Brown came to talk to us.”

From then on, it was a waiting game. The IEC members stated that they were told there would be no re-entry into the Welcome Center upon leaving the building. The security guards had also warned confiscation of IDs if its date expired. Upon inquiring at the NYU Command Center, there is a university-wide policy of confiscating any IDs that are expired.

Near the end of the evening, the IEC was told that leaving the center before 5 p.m. would guarantee them a meeting with administrators on Friday, Dec. 11. The group is now expecting a meeting at 2 p.m. on Friday with school administrators to discuss more on the issue.

A statement from university spokesperson Matt Nagel said NYU’s initial admission decisions are made without looking at whether or not a student has checked the box, and that checking the box has never been an automatic bar to admissions at NYU.

“NYU believes in second chances, and that those who have been caught in our criminal justice system shouldn’t be prevented from getting a college education,” the statement reads. “Still, we think it’s important to take account of all aspects of an applicant’s background, including those that may have an impact on the safety of our community, as part of thoughtful, holistic admissions decision-making process.”


A version of this article appeared in the Dec 7 print edition. Contact Yeho Hwang at [email protected]