Ray Chao and Brandon Holt, a couple of Princeton University students with a flair for advocacy, have found the perfect way to motivate people to support the state’s pending “ban-the-box” legislation: Self-interest. The Opportunity to Compete bill, introduced in the state Legislature in February, aims to eliminate the notorious “box” that applicants with criminal convictions must check on employment applications, delaying disclosure until farther along in the hiring process.

The box is associated, said Chao and Holt, with hardened criminals, prison sentences and blighted urban communities with a high rate of crime. That public perception, they explained, is skewed. “This is a bill that’s very easy to say, ‘Oh, this doesn’t apply to me, this isn’t my problem,’” said Chao during an interview on campus.