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By Ryan Coleman, Indiana U.

Are criminals lurking in the hallowed halls of today's colleges? Imagine finding out that the nice guy down the hall from you is facing charges of statuory rape. Or that your brainy class project partner spent time in a juvenile delinquency hall for arson. Or that your quiet new roomie has a rap sheet the size of your grocery list. Impossible? Hardly.

Many universities unknowingly accept criminal offenders or those charged with crimes because under federal law, universities can only obtain juvenile criminal records through parental consent. And really, when you think about it, what parents are going to rat out their kids and ruin their chances of getting accepted to college? That's right. Ze-ro.

In an effort to weed out dangerous criminals, colleges are considering asking prospective students to disclose criminal activity on applications for enrollment. In fact, the problem of what to do about student criminals is being addressed right about now at the Illinois Association for College Admissions Counseling Annual Conference (April 28-30).

One scenario sure to come up at the conference involves a prospective U. of Michigan student who wasn't admitted to the university because of a pending criminal charge. Mind you, the student had not been found guilty of any crime. UM's action has resulted in a national debate surrounding a university's right to judge students before the law does.

Everything was going great for 18-year-old Daniel Granger. He was president of his high school senior class and like most of his classmates, eagerly looking forward to taking that big step into college. He was really pumped when he got one of those fat envelopes from UM, admitting him for the fall of '98.

But Granger's college plans took a wild turn when three 14-year-old girls claimed that he and a few of his friends gave them alcohol and had sex with them. He was charged with statutory rape and when news of the allegations hit UM, administrators demanded that he attend a meeting to discuss the events.

"They asked him direct questions like, ‘Did you do it?' that he wouldn't have to answer in a court of law," says Granger's father Richard Granger. "They directly said they would hold his answers against him. If our system of justice states he is supposedly innocent, putting him through that procedure made him guilty. He was put in a no-win situation."

After the intense and grueling interview, Granger received notice that his admission had been suspended until UM could complete an investigation.

In September, Granger filed a plea bargain – a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to contribute to the delinquency of a minor. This kept him off the sex-offenders list but earned him four and a half months of jail time and two years probation. It also dashed Granger's hopes of joining the ranks of college freshmen – following the sentencing, UM revoked his admission.

According to the university's report, "Daniel's matriculation poses a threat to the health and safety of members of our community, and his matriculation is not appropriate in light of the university's standards for the judgment and character of the incoming students."

UM students claim that administrators acted as if Granger had committed the crime before he entered the courtroom. "The investigation was completely unfair," says freshman Dana Kelly. "The university should have waited. Who knows? Those girls could have been making it up."

As for Granger, the dark cloud cast over him at UM might hamper any chance he has of joining the ranks of college freshmen. Wayne State U. has denied Granger twice (before and after the plea bargain) and Bowling Green State U. suspended his admission.

It's a serious dilemma – how to ensure the safety of the student body, while at the same time preserving an individual's right to an education. And as universities continue the debate, it's unlikely Daniel Granger will be the last student whose education gets caught in the crossfire.

David Cash: The Un-Criminal?

David Cash committed no crime, yet many of his classmates at the U. of California, Berkeley, would like to see this engineering major booted off campus. The reason? The belief that Cash committed a moral crime because he didn't report that his friend, Jeremy Strohmeyer, sexually molested and killed a 7-year-old girl in a Nevada casino.

Cash admitted to authorities that he witnessed Strohmeyer take Sherrice Iverson into the casino bathroom right before the rape and murder took place but did not report this act to the police.

Strohmeyer pleaded guilty to the charges and will spend the rest of his life in prison without parole. But what about Cash? He's on his way to getting an engineering degree from one of the most respected institutions of higher learning. And the university has no plans to investigate or expel him.

"This student has not been charged with any violation of criminal law or the campus student code that would provide a basis for any such review," UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl remarks in a statement.

What's got students all riled up is that Cash publicly stated no remorse toward the family of the slain girl on "60 Minutes" and even told the Los Angeles Timesthat the publicity has made it easier to pick up women. "It just wasn't some kid scared who froze or didn't want to turn in a friend," says Preston Taylor, president of the Associated Students of University of California. "It was a 17-year-old arrogantly boasting he had done what he did. That attitude is what really ticked us off."

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