BOZEMAN, Mont. - Kevin Briggs enrolled at Montana State University in 2010, and remained a student up until his most recent arrest. At the time he was admitted, he had a prior history of felony convictions. Those convictions include rape, aggravated kidnapping and burglary.
We wanted to know how Montana universities deal with felons who apply for college, and whether the situation involving Briggs has prompted any change in policy.
Dean of Students at MSU Matt Caires sat down with NBC Montana Monday afternoon.
"Make sure we are doing the right thing to see what should change if anything, the policy will come up, it hasn't been reviewed since 2007," said Caires.
Caires is very familiar with Montana State's policy for admitting people with a criminal past. He tells us on a yearly basis he reviews between 100 and 120 applicants with a felony record. In the Fall of 2013, they reviewed 50 applications; 40 of those were approved.
"When they disclose to us those crimes, we have a committee that reviews information about their status as a student," said Caires.
In 2010, Kevin Briggs was one of those candidates. Caires was not Dean of Students at the time and could not speak specifically about Briggs, but told us the process would have been similar to how it is today.
"I want to make it clear, he was required to fill out all the safety documentation required then, and I believe he did so," said Caires.
We looked through the questionnaire and found it asks for details like "Are you currently on parole?" and "Have you ever been required to register has a sexual or violent offender?"
That question would have applied to Briggs, a registered sex offender before he came to MSU.
"Mr. Briggs had a chance to come to the University and receive a college degree. That is a privilege. He had an opportunity here to do something to better himself," said Caires.
Once completed by the applicant, the questionnaire is sent to the Campus Safety & Welfare Review Committee. The committee reviews the applicants, and sends its recommendations on to Caires for final approval. Caires says it is a fine line they have to walk with the policy.
"We have two values in conflict with each other, the value of access that conflicts with the value of safety," said Caires.
Which is exactly why university officials are reviewing the policy, making sure they can continue to provide both education and a safe community. Right now Caires tells us they are internally reviewing the policy. Should any changes be necessary, he wants to see those in place before students begin to enroll in classes for Fall 2014.
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