Everyone deserves a second chance. Let the past stay in the past.

CU students are advocating to ban the box on Columbia University applications that specifically asks if an applicant has been convicted of a felony. Members of Beyond the Box at Columbia have created a letter to send to President Bollinger and Provost Coatsworth to remove the box on future CU applications. 

Beyond the Box at Columbia was founded by Leyla Martinez, a GS student that, like many other applicants, felt discouraged when met by “the box” on college applications, forced to have the past affect their chances of admission. Last year, Columbia University, along with 24 other universities in the United States, signed the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge which aims to make higher levels of education more accessible, especially for Americans that have a criminal record. Beyond the Box’s position on the issue is clear: the box is a deterrent for potential applicants that believe that the application process puts them at a disadvantage, even before applying to the school of their choice. Columbia currently still has the box on their applications, asking for information that is irrelevant when determining whether a person would be able to succeed at the university.

Let’s not forget the facts: people of color, residents in lower income communities, or people with a lower socioeconomic status in general are disproportionally incarcerated. Many affected struggle to find employment opportunities once they are released from prison, and others that seek higher levels of education are met with obstacles, one being “the box.” Opportunity to receive a college education would decrease the recidivism rate, make people generally more productive, and allow people of color to have access to education that was once inaccessible. Columbia prides itself on its low acceptance rate, increasing representation of minorities, and its sanctuary campus status, but why hasn’t the box been taken off the application?

Beyond the Box is just as confused as you are. New York State public universities (SUNY and CUNY) has recently removed the box from their applications. The move to ban the box should not be seen as progressive, but necessary, especially at a school which searches for diversity in thought, life, and action.

If you’d like to read Beyond the Box at Columbia’s letter to President Bollinger, click here.

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