University of Virginia now requires students to disclose arrests, convictions

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 7, 2010; B01

Students returning to the University of Virginia this month will be required to report whether they have been arrested or convicted, a new layer of security announced Friday in response to the May slaying of student Yeardley Love.

University President Teresa A. Sullivan discussed the new rule at a news conference marking the end of her first week on the job. University leaders hope screening students for criminal encounters will flag those who might commit violent acts.

Students return to Charlottesville the weekend of Aug. 21. When they log onto the campus computer system for the first time, each will be prompted to report any arrest, other than minor traffic infractions, since enrolling.

Love, 22, of suburban Baltimore was found dead in her off-campus apartment May 3. George Huguely of Chevy Chase, her 22-year-old ex-boyfriend and a fellow lacrosse player, is charged in the killing.

Huguely had a prior arrest, for a drunken encounter with a Lexington, Va., police officer, in fall of his junior year. University officials said had they known, Huguely probably would have been suspended or expelled.

Sullivan, U-Va.'s first female president, said she followed the Love case with sorrow from the campus of University of Michigan, where she was provost before being tapped to replace John T. Casteen III at Virginia.

"I was deeply affected by it in Ann Arbor -- and, of course, not able to do anything, but very aware of the responsibility we have at universities, because the parents have trusted us with their greatest treasures, which are their sons and daughters," she said.

The university has required students to report arrests since 2004. But the rule was not universally known, and students were left to report violations on their own initiative. Huguely never did.

Now, the question will be put to every student. The change is significant, too, because students who fail to disclose an arrest will violate the university's strict honor code. Under the code, students confirmed to have lied, cheated or stolen face a single sanction -- dismissal.

Any incidents disclosed under the new rule will go to the dean of students for evaluation and could lead to suspension or expulsion, although those steps are not automatic.

Long-standing U-Va. policy also requires athletes to notify coaches within 24 hours of an arrest.

University officials said they were asking other Virginia institutions to join them in a new initiative to notify each other when a student is arrested "or otherwise involved in an incident requiring police intervention" while visiting another college.

Sullivan said all U-Va. students returning to campus this month would attend mandatory sessions about safety. She said four of the largest student organizations had volunteered to come back early for "bystander training, which is how to get involved and not stand passively [by] when you see something happening."

Later this fall, the university will unveil a mandatory online training program for faculty, staff and students on how to help peers in unsafe situations.

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