Responding to Campus Death Incidents
The following procedures are in place to deal with our response to on campus incidents involving the death of a visitor, student, faculty, or staff member. Regardless where on campus the incident occurs, the response and notification procedures will remain essentially the same. Only the location will dictate how the scene is protected.
Any scene reveals evidence. To the trained investigator, violent scenes also reveal a lot about the perpetrator. If we go into a scene and we leave or inadvertently remove any evidence, we will confuse the issue and possibly ruin any chances to solve a crime or determine if it was in fact a suicide, a natural death, an accidental death, or a criminal act.
What is important to realize is that from a police prospective, all death scenes are crime scenes and all crime scenes are potential homicide scene. With that in mind, it is important that the following procedures are followed to ensure the scene is not touched or contaminated in any manner. The following procedures shall be followed when a call reporting a death is received.
Dean of Students' Procedures
In the Event of the Death of a University Student, contact the Office of Student Life and Development, (836-5527).
The Dean of Student Life and Development should:
- Be completely satisfied that the deceased student has been properly identified. The embarrassment and potential harm of notifying the wrong parents or next of kin is obvious.
- Make the family notification if at all possible. If it is not possible to notify the family in person, consideration should be given to notifying the home town police or clergy. The need for expediency may be very important due to the possibility of a news release reaching the family first. The initial notification should impart only the essential information, identifying the Dean of Student Life and Development by name, title, and telephone number for further contact, the cause of death, and the location of the deceased student. The family should be asked to begin making arrangements for someone to come to the campus. The Dean of Student Life and Development should make a second contact with the family in a short time to answer questions and learn of travel and other arrangements made by the family. Based upon experience, the call from the Dean of Student Life and Development may well be as a follow-up since the family will probably have been notified by another party.
- Channel all information to the media through the University Communications Office (836-6397). If there is a student with an identical name, the Dean of Student Life and Development will be asked to call his/her relatives so that they will not be alarmed by a news release. Where the nature of the death is particularly sensitive (e.g. homicide, suicide, overdose) the Dean of Student Life and Development and the University Communications Office should be guided by the need to protect the family and to seek permission from the family if release of sensitive information is contemplated.
- Immediately notify University personnel as appropriate:
- President of the University
- Vice President for Student Affairs
- Admissions and Records (requesting a clearing of student records and notification of Financial Services and course instructors)
- University Communications Office
- Appropriate Academic Dean
- Academic Advisor
- Housing Office and/or Fraternity or Sorority of membership
- Financial Aid
- Alumni Office
- In conjunction with University Security, inventory and secure all personal property and ensure that the student’s room is in order for the arrival of parents or others.
- Arrange for sending flowers to the family by calling the Office of University Relations.
- When we send the student’s parents a letter of condolence, we should always blind carbon copy it to Admissions and Records.
- Allow students to participate as much as possible in arranging a memorial service, scholarship funds, attending the funeral, or meeting the family.
- Be responsible for follow-up such as having an institutional representative at the funeral, keeping the family informed of a fund or gift development, and the coordinating of the shipping of any belongings, which are all responsibilities that remain after the family has returned home.
- Write a letter of condolence to the parents. Offer assistance in clearing any remaining matters with the University.
- If appropriate, explore the reason for the death and prepare a summary of information for the President of the University and the Vice President for Student Affairs.