Appeal To Reason

Cartoon by Mike Sheinkopf.

A recent study on the attrition rates of SUNY institution applications from individuals convicted of a felony has revealed that 81.1 percent of felon applicants to SUNY New Paltz do not complete the application process in full, supposedly due to document requirements that are extensive in comparison to other universities and difficult to obtain.

We at The New Paltz Oracle are concerned with the data and personal accounts regarding the convicted felon attrition rates of applicants here at SUNY New Paltz as they have been depicted in said study.

Compared to other SUNY colleges, New Paltz’s processing and acceptance of convicted felons seem disproportionately complex. One can not help but wonder, despite the explanations given by administration, why New Paltz thinks it is justified to impose harsher demands of felon applicants than other universities?

The issue of safety on our residential campus has been provided as an explanation, which, while understandable, is to assume that every felon is convicted of a violent crime and will continue to act out upon their release in a college setting. There is zero evidence to support this assumption.

It also ignores that these individuals convicted with a felony can only now apply to college because the state has determined that they have paid their debt to society and are applying with previous experience and often success in college level courses.

It should also be noted that many of these applicants are presumed to be older individuals who were incarcerated at a young age and the likelihood that they are to become repeat-offenders after years of imprisonment is slim. On the same token, claims can be made that an applicant who is older than the average college-aged student here at SUNY New Paltz would not be choosing to live on campus.

When analyzing the applicant’s worthiness of acceptance to our university, we hope that the selection committee is weighing very heavily on the nature of the crime committed by said applicant. People can be convicted for a large array of crimes on an equally as spacious scale of severity — some of which are non-violent and or have simply been a case of wrong place, wrong time. Circumstances surrounding an incident can be very telling about where an applicant has come from and the progress they have made to get to where they are now.

All these individuals want is a second chance at success in the world outside of incarceration. If they are truly trying to get into this college so they can be eligible for their dream career in the future, just as every other applicant, then we believe they should not be disadvantaged because of their past. They should be treated as reformed individuals and not as criminals.

It is our opinion that the documents SUNY New Paltz requires in addition to the documentation the SUNY system states  must be submitted by felon applicants are a deterrence to these applicants, thus resulting in the 81.1 percent attrition rate.

SUNY New Paltz talks a lot about the diversity of their student population. These individuals bring in new experiences, perspectives and an appreciation for the power of education. Those applying to the school have taken the initiative to invest in their future in a positive way and that action should speak for itself.

Editorials represent the views of the majority of the editorial board. Columns, op-eds and letters, excluding editorials, are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The New Paltz Oracle, its staff members, the campus and university or the Town or Village of New Paltz.