Background checks now part of the on-campus housing process at University of Akron

Morgan Day

Starting this semester, University of Akron students must agree to criminal background checks if they wish to live on campus.

As of last week, 40 individuals checked “yes” — indicating a criminal history — on their applications for housing, said John Messina, director of Residence Life and Housing at the University of Akron, in an e-mail interview.

“Most of them were reporting traffic offenses and minor citations such as underage consumption,” he said.

However, Messina said he will be meeting with students to review their disclosed information and determine their eligibility for housing.

David Westrich, 39, of Canton, is one of eight students who may be denied residence in university housing because of a domestic violence incident occurring 11 years ago, according to The Associated Press.

Westrich had gotten into a shouting match with his sister about whether his school, the University of Akron, was better than hers, Kent State, AP reported. Westrich, who has been living in the residence halls since 2005, said there was no physical abuse.

Residence Life and Housing will send out official notices next week informing students of their residence status, Akron spokesman Ken Torisky said in the story.

The decision for students to disclose criminal backgrounds followed news last year that at least four felons were living in UA housing. Two were in their 40s, living with students as young as 18, reported the Akron Beacon Journal last month.

Under the new policy, age is taken into consideration when making individual room assignments. Residence Life and Housing will consult with all concerned roommates to determine their comfort levels.

In addition, a former student filed suit because he was assigned to live with an undercover drug informant. The university, without admitting wrongdoing, paid the individual $8,000, according to the Beacon.

At Kent State, students disclose criminal records on their admissions applications as opposed to their housing applications. However, students are asked about their criminal histories if applying for housing at Allerton Apartments, said Betsy Joseph, director of Residence Services at Kent State.

Many graduate students reside there, she said, and some might not have filled out the undergraduate admissions application which would reveal their criminal backgrounds.

Messina said Akron is the first university in Ohio to require full-time, part-time and student staff working within residence services to have background checks.

Kent State only checks the backgrounds of its student security aides in Residence Services, Joseph said.

“I’ve been trying to find out what we’re doing at this point in time regarding background checks” for employees in Residence Services, she said. If any policies were to be changed, they would be “consistent with other policies and procedures happening at the university.”

Contact safety reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].