In our Corporate Screening blog, we have shared a lot of news about the states and local communities that passed or are considering “ban the box” legislation – removing the box that asks about criminal history on application forms (and sometimes during initial interviews). We’ve remarked repeatedly that the “ban the box” movement is growing. To illustrate this, recently Target Corporation removed the question from its applications nationwide. And now some students at Princeton University want the university to remove the criminal background question from its undergraduate admission application.


Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR) is a student group at Princeton University that advocates for prison reform, holds campus and community events on the topic, and also has education and policy research committees. The group has developed its “Admissions Opportunity Campaign” to change Princeton’s admissions policies. The campaign also includes a petition to eliminate the criminal background question on the admissions application.


On its website, the group highlights reasons why the admissions policies should be changed. These include (among others):

  • “Students on our campus differ from those we are discriminating against in circumstance, not in character.”
  • “Education provides opportunities for success and creates a more equitable society.”
  • “Previous involvement with the justice system is not an accurate prediction of a student’s on-campus behavior.”
  • “Individuals with past involvement with the justice system would bring distinct perspectives to Princeton.”

The website also features quotes from people who support the campaign and have signed the petition.


In the article, “Princeton group questions student criminal records check,” Inside Higher Ed contacted officials at Princeton on the subject. Janet Lavin Rapelye, Dean of Admission, said, “If an applicant has been cited for misconduct or convicted of a crime we believe we should know this, but just as important we want to know the circumstances and reasons which we ask about in the additional essay. We take all of this information into account in our holistic review of the applicant.”


Currently the university has not made the changes that the student group advocates. But the situation at Princeton is yet another example of the increasing “ban the box” trend throughout the nation.