The University of Akron has taken the radical step of demanding that all faculty and employees submit a DNA sample — causing one adjunct professor Matt Williams (who teaches four communications and continuing education courses) to resign. Williams notes “It’s not enough that the university doesn’t pay us a living wage, or provide us with health insurance, but now they want to sacrifice the sanctity of our bodies.” He’s right.
One of the most striking aspects of this policy is how entirely unnecessary it is. The rule was adopted by the Board of Trustees in August without much debate — or apparent reason.
Laura Martinez Massie, Akron spokeswoman insists that the university wants “a safe environment for all of its students and employees” and that “DNA testing was included in the policy because there have been national discussions that indicate that in the future, reliance on fingerprinting will diminish and DNA for criminal identification will be the more prominent technology.” Ok, I am a bit lost here. Police have the ability to collect DNA evidence when there is a credible basis as part of a criminal investigation. What does this have to do with the University of Akron?
The university stated in its Akron policy:
The University of Akron is committed to providing a safe environment by protecting the health, welfare and safety of all students, employees and visitors to our campus. As such, the University conducts pre-employment background checks for all applicants selected for employment. This policy shall apply, without limitation, to all individuals selected during the hiring process for full and part-time faculty, contract professional and staff positions. It is a condition of employment that all such individuals submit to the criminal background check procedures.
For the full policy, click here
Yet, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 specifically states:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any employee, or otherwise to discriminate against any employee with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment of the employee, because of genetic information with respect to the employee.
This is a remarkably dim-witted idea by the Akron administration and is rightfully being opposed by faculty. Schools can do background checks on new faculty without demanding their DNA profiles be made part of the school’s records. It also increases the chances that such information can be demanded through civil litigation or other means. What is amazing is how little thought appears to have gone into this extreme measure despite its dangers to privacy and individual rights. Akron seems to want to be on the forefront of eroding privacy rights, which are already threatened by these private databanks and searches. It is a remarkably ignoble and frankly ignorant approach for a university — particularly without serious debate among the faculty and Akron community. It would seem that the school needs a new Administration more urgently than a new DNA database.
Notably, Williams is a vice president of the New Faculty Majority, a national organization created this year to advance adjunct interests — a valuable mission given the poor treatment of such faculty by many schools.
For the full story, click here.