A bill filed Thursday in the state Senate would require fingerprinting and criminal background checks for all students before they enroll in any of the state's 16 public universities, starting in the fall of 2007.
The bill's future is unclear, but it was sent to a legislative finance committee for consideration.
The proposal, by Raleigh Republican Sen. Neal Hunt, was prompted by two slayings at UNC-Wilmington in 2004, when female students were stalked and killed by fellow students with troubled pasts.
Hunt, whose business experience includes apartment management, said it is common for apartment complexes to run criminal checks on tenants. Why should a university be different, he asked.
Criminal checks would be costly and probably wouldn't reveal much, said Leslie Winner, vice president and general counsel for the UNC system. Because juvenile records are sealed, a background check of an 18-year-old would capture at most two years of behavior.
That is why the UNC system dropped the idea, she said.
Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor at Duke University, said a criminal check does not raise a constitutional problem -- after all, criminal records are public. But, he said, "telling people they have to get fingerprinted before they go to college -- that's much more likely to raise opposition."