SUNY Board Votes to “Ban the Box” Following Student Assembly Recommendation, Campus Visits

September 14, 2016

Student Applicants Will No Longer Be Asked to Declare Prior Felony Convictions

Cortland, NY – The State University of New York Board of Trustees today voted to "ban the box" from its general application, revising SUNY policy that previously required student applicants to declare prior felony convictions. Instead, students will be asked to declare a prior felony conviction post-admission and only when they seek campus housing or participation in clinical or field experiences, internships, or study abroad programs.

Today’s action follows a national "Ban the Box" movement as well as a SUNY Student Assembly resolution recommending that "criminal history screenings should only be implemented after a student has been admitted, and that they should never be used to revoke admission."

"The State University of New York is committed to providing all New Yorkers the broadest possible access to quality public higher education, including those who have succeeded through the justice system following a felony conviction," said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. "Thank you to Trustee Marc Cohen and the SUNY Student Assembly for their leadership on this important issue. I am confident that we have found precisely the right balance of inquiry to uphold our commitments to college access and student safety."

"Today’s policy revision is a milestone achievement for SUNY, one that positions our university system as a leader in what has become a national movement to expand access and educational opportunity for individuals with a felony history," said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. "Thank you to the many students, faculty, and staff across SUNY whose critical feedback led to today’s resolution."

"Being part of a system that changes lives, it's important to remember that every student deserves a chance at a great life," said Student Assembly President and Trustee Marc Cohen. "The stigma behind criminal offenses might be part of a student's past, but we, the SUNY Student Assembly, believe in a path forward. I am proud of the hard work and dedication my colleagues have put into eliminating convictions from the general admission process."

At the direction of the SUNY Board of Trustees last year, and following increasing state and national calls for the elimination of pre-admission inquiries into a student applicant’s prior criminal history, SUNY established a Ban the Box Workgroup comprised of system and campus representatives, to evaluate its admissions policies and practices. Today’s resolution reflects the workgroup’s recommendations as well as concerns raised by the SUNY Student Assembly.

The workgroup will continue its discussions and support campuses as they implement the revised policy over the next year, with system-wide adoption slated for the 2018 admissions cycle.

Also today, the Obama Administration announced that 61 higher education institutions and systems have committed to take the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge, joining the 25 signatories – including SUNY – that took the pledge when it was first announced in June. The White House pledge calls on businesses and higher education institutions throughout the country to eliminate barriers for individuals with criminal records.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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Holly Liapis
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