The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday December 5th

Smart safety step

The UNC-system Safety Task Force did the necessary thing to suggest that admissions officials check applicants' backgrounds in some cases.

The UNC-system Safety Task Force did well to include a recommendation for background checks in a report to be submitted to UNC-system President Molly Broad.

There's little doubt that something had to be done after the murders of two UNC-Wilmington students this year - the suspects in both of those cases lied about their criminal histories.

It would be an impossible investment of resources for admissions officials to try to investigate criminal records for all applicants to UNC-system schools, but an ongoing effort to flag indicators of potential violence is in order.

Some of the suggestions to identify trouble - triggers such as a lapse between high school graduation and submission of the college application - seem like reasonable justification for admissions officials to double-check the applicant's criminal history.

Having the UNC system go to the Department of Public Instruction, the community college system and private schools to provide it with in-state student suspension and expulsion records also seem to be reasonable measures.

Although it's impossible to know how many real threats a flagging system will be able to catch, it's certainly better than having a system in which applicants can be confident that lies will go undetected.

Leslie Winner, UNC-system vice president and general counsel, told The (Raleigh) News & Observer that action of some sort is necessary.

"It's sort of a needle in a haystack we're looking for," she said, "but it's a pretty sharp needle."

It's unfortunate that admissions officials are forced to take on what are effectively law enforcement duties, but as events this year have shown, the need is there.

Guidelines for admissions officials to screen for potential sources of harm should continue to be examined and adapted as ideas come up.

It's an important matter - it's good to see that proactive efforts are being made to protect students.

It's unfortunate that it took the lives of two students to provoke the changes, but the need is clear and these recommendations chart a course of action that serves well within the constraints on the university system. We can only hope that more intrusive measures won't be necessary in the future.

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