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Student collective pushes University to disregard conviction history in hiring

UCS also discusses Project Tampon, Fall Poll at Wednesday meeting

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 31, 2019

Student collective RailRoad presented to the Undergraduate Council of Students on Wednesday evening, outlining its proposal for the University to make its hiring policies more inclusive of people with conviction histories.

The Council also gave updates on committee work, the UCS Fall Poll, Project Tampon and other initiatives.

RailRoad is asking that the University adopt “fair chance hiring” practices, such as including conviction history in its non-discrimination statement and committing to hiring a certain number of people who have been incarcerated. In addition to advocating for amendments to the University’s hiring policies, the group aims “to ensure that the (University) hire and retain an impactful number of people with past convictions, and to institutionalize support and inclusion of formerly incarcerated community members,” according to their presentation.

“For people who are coming out of incarceration, oftentimes getting that first job is the hardest part,” said Leah Shorb ’20, one of the representatives from RailRoad.

RailRoad has worked since last fall to “build a world beyond prisons, and support people and communities affected by the prison industrial complex,” according to a petition presented at the meeting.

The group’s petition also demands that the University revise its institutional background check policy so that it only conducts background checks for positions that legally require them and only considers convictions when they may be directly related to specific job responsibilities, Shorb said.

RailRoad also advocates for University partnerships with local nonprofits, such as OpenDoors RI which provides “services and advocacy to people with criminal records,” according to its website.

Such a partnership would “institutionalize support” for organizations committed to helping formerly incarcerated individuals re-enter society, said Liam Bendicksen ’22, who also represented RailRoad at the meeting.

RailRoad plans to gather broader community support this fall by strategizing, coalition-building and generating “momentum and pressure,” according to their presentation.

“If we can get (the University) to make these changes, (it) could have a huge impact on the rest of Rhode Island, and the nation,” Shorb said.

The Council also discussed Project Tampon, a UCS initiative launched in 2016 that institutionalized free menstrual products in bathrooms on campus. Chair of Student Wellness Shivani Nishar ’20 said that students have noticed that bathrooms are not always stocked with menstrual products, so the Council wants to do “due diligence.”

General body members plan to check every dispenser on campus to verify whether they are stocked with menstrual products, Nishar said.

The Council emailed its Fall Poll to undergraduate students today, and UCS members discussed publicity efforts at the meeting around the poll. UCS “uses data from the poll to advocate for important campus issues,” according to the email sent to undergraduates.

Council members will also begin holding weekly office hours in the Blue Room starting this Friday to engage with the undergraduate student body, said Chief of Staff Melissa Lee ’20.

At the meeting, UCS discussed current projects which include creating end-of-year reports for the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years to summarize the Council’s work. The Council’s Celebrating Staff at Brown’s Facebook page, which profiles staff members, will also be rebranded.

The Council also discussed projects including a new UCS LinkedIn page intended to build connections with alums.

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