Faculty Policies and Procedures

Criminal Background Checks for Faculty, Academic Staff and Executive Management

Last updated: 2/8/2018

This Policy was endorsed by the University Committee on Faculty Affairs and the Academic Specialist Advisory Committee, issued by the Office of the Provost on January 1, 2010, and revised on February 12, 2018.

I. Purpose

Michigan State University is committed to providing a safe environment for its students, faculty, and staff in support of its educational mission. This Policy is intended to help the University achieve that goal by mandating the use of criminal background checks in the hiring process for faculty, academic staff, and executive managers and by establishing procedures for conducting those background checks.

The Policy also requires faculty, academic staff, and executive managers to self-disclose certain arrests, convictions, and/or events as outlined in the Michigan State University Self-Disclosure Form within 72 hours or at the earliest possible opportunity.

II. Applicability

This Policy applies to all faculty, academic staff, and executive management appointments (whether paid or unpaid), including visiting appointments.

III. Policy

A criminal background check, including degree verification, is required for all new faculty, academic staff, and executive management appointments.1 The criminal background check will include the following:2

A. Verification of Social Security Number

B. Examination of county criminal records (county of current residence)

C. Examination of state criminal records (recent residences)

D. Examination of federal criminal records

E. Examination of sex offender registry (nationwide)

F. Examination of federal debarment lists

G. Degree verification

In addition, all individuals who hold a faculty, academic staff, or executive management appointment are required to disclose to the Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Human Resources within 72 hours of the period of their occurrence, or at the earliest possible opportunity, all relevant events that could adversely affect their ability to fulfill successfully the responsibilities of their appointment, including:

  1. Professional misconduct or sanctions
  2. Any civil rights violation that the individual admitted or was determined by a court or other adjudicative process to have committed
  3. Any felony crime for which the individual was arrested and charged or any serious crime3 for which the individual was convicted or pled “no contest.”

IV. Criminal Background Check Process

A. The final candidate for a faculty, academic staff, or executive management position (whether paid or unpaid) will be required to complete a consumer disclosure and authorization form for a criminal background check to be conducted by an outside vendor for review by the University.

B. Candidates must be informed that a criminal background check is a prerequisite to any faculty, academic staff, or executive management appointment at MSU. The candidate’s refusal to submit the authorization form will constitute a withdrawal from the applicant pool.

C. The criminal background check will be initiated by the final candidate or the hiring unit once a contingent offer of appointment has been issued and an authorization form is completed.4 Written offers of appointment extended to faculty, academic staff, and executive managers must clearly state that the offer is contingent on satisfactory criminal background check results, including degree verification.

D. The results of the criminal background check (“meets standards” or “pending review”) will be sent to an authorized individual in the hiring unit. If questionable results are obtained (“pending review”), the Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Human Resources will receive a detailed report. The Associate Provost will contact the candidate and provide him/her with an opportunity to explain the results and provide clarifying information. Prior criminal convictions do not automatically preclude employment.

E. In consultation with the relevant unit administrator(s), the Associate Provost will evaluate the relevancy of the candidate’s criminal history to the position the candidate is seeking. The Associate Provost may also seek advice and guidance from other University offices, such as the MSU Police Department and Office of the General Counsel.

F. The assessment of a candidate’s criminal history will take into account:

  1. The nature and gravity of any criminal offense(s);
  2. The individual’s age at the time of the offense(s);
  3. The number and type of offense (felony, misdemeanor, traffic violations, etc.);
  4. The sentence or sanction for the offense and compliance with the sanction(s);
  5. The amount of time that has passed since the offense and/or completion of the sentence(s);
  6. Whether there is a pattern of offenses;
  7. Whether the offense arose in connection with the candidate’s prior employment;
  8. Information supplied by the candidate about the offense(s);
  9. Work record and references after the offense(s);
  10. Subsequent criminal activity; and
  11. Truthfulness of the candidate in disclosing the offense(s).

G. The University may decline to hire any candidate whose criminal history the University deems incompatible with the position the candidate is seeking.

H. Faculty, academic staff, and executive management appointments may not receive final approval until the required background check has been performed and the results received and assessed.

I. In order to provide the maximum degree of protection for candidates’ privacy, all records related to criminal background checks will be maintained in a secure location separate from employee personnel records. Criminal background check records will be maintained on a confidential basis to the maximum extent allowed by law.

J. Any candidate who provides false or misleading information will be eliminated from further consideration. If false or misleading information is discovered after an individual has been appointed in an executive management, academic specialist, or fixed-term faculty position, the individual’s employment may be terminated pursuant to the appropriate dismissal procedures. If false or misleading information is discovered after an individual has been appointed in the tenure system, the University may rescind the appointment pursuant to the faculty Policy and Procedure for Rescission.

V. Self-Disclosure Process

Individuals currently employed or engaged by the University (whether paid or unpaid) are required to notify the Associate Provost and Associate Vice President of Academic Human Resources of certain arrests, convictions, or events within 72 hours or at the earliest possible opportunity by using the Michigan State University Self-Disclosure Form. The arrests, convictions and events that must be reported are described in Section III of this policy.  

Engagement in any such conduct will not, in and of itself, result in termination of the appointment. However, failure to disclose such information, or any misrepresentation made in connection with the disclosure, could be grounds for termination.

The Associate Provost will make a good faith effort to contact the individual and provide him/her with an opportunity to provide clarifying information about the disclosure.

In consultation with the relevant unit administrator(s), the Associate Provost will evaluate the relevancy of the criminal history and/or events disclosed and determine whether the individual can successfully fulfill the responsibilities of their appointment.  The Associate Provost may also seek advice and guidance from other University offices, such as the MSU Police Department and the Office of the General Counsel.  The Associate Provost will utilize the factors listed in Section IV.F above in conducting this assessment.

Depending on the facts of the matter disclosed and the impact on the individual’s ability to successfully fulfill the responsibilities of their appointment, the individual may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

VII. Related Documents

Criminal Background Check Authorization and Consent PDF

Criminal Background Check Frequently Asked Questions

Self-Disclosure Form

Unpaid Faculty & Academic Staff Appointments Attachment A ( Word  |  PDF )


In lieu of a University background check, the University will rely on the background check conducted by: (1) the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for individuals coming to the University directly from residence outside the United States, and (2) the hospital/medical facility where unpaid clinical faculty who volunteer for MSU are privileged and credentialed, and/or hold regular employment, as long as they are as strenuous as the University’s criminal background check processes.

Nothing in this Policy negates the possibility that a more comprehensive criminal background check may be required pursuant to state or federal law, for certain sensitive positions (such as those with significant financial responsibilities), or when the University has reasonable suspicion that the original background check was incomplete or inaccurate or that a criminal background check may be required for existing faculty and staff who: (1) are legally required to have a background check, (2) are required to have a criminal background check pursuant to the Conducting Youth Programs on Campus:  Minimum Operational Requirements, (3) work in facilities that require a criminal background check, (4) are assigned new duties that involve significant safety or security considerations or financial responsibilities, or (5) the University receives credible information on to suggest the individual  has failed to provide updated information about a felony arrest or criminal conviction as required by policy.

3A “serious crime” is one that involves drug distribution; sexual offenses; violence involving physical injury to another person; child abuse, molestation, or child endangerment; theft or embezzlement.

4Costs associated with the criminal background check process will be covered centrally.

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