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Mar 10, 2014 03:21 PM EDT

Student Organization At Princeton University Wants To Remove Justice System Questions From School Application

A group of students is calling for Princeton University to remove a question from its undergraduate admissions application asking if students have a criminal record, The Star-Ledger reported.

Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR), an organization on campus, started an online petition last week to remove all questions regarding past involvement with the justice system from the undergraduate application.

 According to The Star-Ledger, the group believes the question is unfair because the American Justice system is biased against people of color and low-income populations. People from those communities are more likely to be arrested that their wealthier peers for the same behavior.

"When people hear that someone has had past involvement with the justice system, they have this visceral reaction - they are the other, and we shouldn't have anything to do with them," Shaina Watrous, a fourth-year student who founded the campus group two years ago, told The Daily Princetonian. "This is the kind of attitude we are looking to change."

Daniel Teehan, first-year student and current chair of Advocacy Committee of SPEAR, told The Star-Ledger when people think of people who are incarcerated, they automatically think they are murderers.

"When you delve into the numbers ... you quickly realize that most of the people there are there because of minor drug infractions, selective policing and draconian sentencing practices," Teehan said.

The University currently requires applicants to disclose whether they have a criminal record through a question on the Common Application that was introduced in 2006.

Janet Rapelye, Princeton's dean of admissions, told The Star-Ledger hat admissions officials believe the question is needed.  They believe it is important to ask about misconduct and convictions because "we consider the responses to these questions useful to our holistic review of the applicant," she said.

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