Background Checks in the College of Engineering

Background Checks for College of Engineering Graduate Student Instructors, Graduate Student Staff Assistants and Graduate Student Research Assistants

 This requirement applies to new students and students who have not had appointments  as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Graduate Student Staff Assistant (GSSA) or Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA) prior to November 18, 2013.  The background check will happen once during your enrollment at the University, and must be completed before a graduate student receives a firm offer of appointment. The policy is described in more detail in the University of Michigan Standard Practice Guide.

 If you have concerns about the background check, we would like to remind you that the likelihood of an issue that would prevent you from receiving funding is exceptionally small. In the unlikely event that action is triggered by the background check, there will be a confidential review.  Any decision will be carefully considered and you will have the opportunity to provide additional information to the University.  This assessment would consider a number of elements, including the nature and gravity of any criminal offense, the nature of the position, the number/type of offenses and any extenuating circumstances. Please read through the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below for more information.


What is a background check?

RESPONSE:  A background check is a pre-appointment review of an individual’s criminal conviction history, national sex offender registry screen, and social security verification. Academic credentials are verified during admissions process, and are not checked. The background check is conducted by General Information Services, Inc. (GIS); you will receive an email from them prior to your appointment.

Who will need to have  the pre-appointment background check?

RESPONSE:  Any graduate student who receives his or her first offer of appointment as a  Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Graduate Student Staff Assistant (GSSA) or Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA)  on or after November 18, 2013, must successfully complete a background check prior to receiving a firm offer of appointment and before commencing the  appointment.  A graduate student who was appointed in one of these positions prior to November 18, 2013 and who has remained enrolled as a graduate student (or on an approved leave of absence from his/her academic program) each fall and winter semester since the prior appointment is not subject to the background check requirement.

What about international students?

RESPONSE:  All graduate students applying for a first-time appointment will be invited to complete the consent and disclosure form, which will request previous addresses.  If the individual has never lived, worked or gone to school in the US, the individual is directed to contact University Human Resources (HR) to provide their address history, job title and department.  The offer is approved and the appointing department is notified by University HR.

What steps will be taken if the background check reveals conviction or other potentially actionable information?

RESPONSE:  In general, Academic Human Resources  (AHR) will be notified  that there is reported information that needs to be reviewed.  AHR will review the matter with the academic unit if needed.  An individualized assessment of the information will be undertaken, and will include communication with the student.  With respect to criminal convictions, the individualized assessment will consider, at minimum, the nature and gravity of the offense, the time elapsed since the offense or completion of the sentence, and its relevance to the particular position sought.

  • The nature and gravity of any criminal offense(s)
  • The nature of the position sought
  • The facts and circumstances surrounding the offense;
  • The number and type of offense (felony, misdemeanor, traffic violations, etc.) and whether there is a pattern of   offenses
  • The sentence or sanction for the offense and compliance with the sanction(s)
  • The amount of time that has passed since the offense and/or completion of the sentence(s)
  • Whether the offense arose in connection with the candidate‚Äôs prior employment or education
  • Information supplied by the candidate about the offense(s)
  • The length and consistency of employment or educational history before and after the criminal conviction
  • Rehabilitation efforts (e.g. education/training)
  • Other mitigating or extenuating circumstances

If I am not allowed to be appointed to a given position as a result of the background check, may I apply for or be placed in another position?

RESPONSE: Disqualification from one type of  position does not necessarily disqualify you from other others.    A student who is not appointed to one position because of a finding from the background check may be allowed to apply for or be appointed to another position on a case-by-case basis, at the discretion of the department.  The decision of whether to disqualify a person from a subsequent  appointment will depend, in part, upon the relationship between the nature of work being performed and the potentially actionable information or conviction.

May a graduate student begin working  before the background check is complete?  Does the answer change if classes start before the check is complete?

RESPONSE:  If a background check is required, the answer to both questions is no.  A student who is required to complete a background check cannot begin teaching, or perform any related tasks, before the background check is completed.  The same is true for research assistant appointments; the graduate student cannot begin the tasks associated with his or her first appointment until the background check is successfully completed. However, once the background check is completed, the student may be appointed effective the beginning of the semester.

If I take a fellowship or internship, will I have to undergo another background check before returning to a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Graduate Student Staff Assistant (GSSA) or Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA)  appointment?

 RESPONSE: No. A background check is required prior to the first appointment only, so long as you remain enrolled (or on an approved leave of absence from your academic program) as a graduate student each Fall and Winter semester.

College of Engineering Ph.D. students (and some Masters students) have letters of financial support for all or most of their enrollment as a graduate student.  If I decline to submit the necessary information for a background check, what is the impact?

RESPONSE: If you decline to provide the needed information for a background check, you cannot be appointed as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Graduate Student Staff Assistant (GSSA) or Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA) .  Your academic unit will not be obligated to offer alternative forms of support, irrespective of any financial support commitment made at the time of admission into the graduate program.