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Student Death Notification

By: Aaron L. Austin, Ed.D., Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students, Wichita State University

The most difficult responsibility I have in my role is to help the University respond to a student death. Unfortunately, I have had to do this too many times – so much so that it resulted in the development of a relatively streamlined notification process to our campus partners.

The following is a brief outline of responsibilities that may help you as you engage in this difficult task. It is not intended to be a definitive document as the circumstances surrounding a student’s death may require additional tasks. However, we have found these primary partners and their responsibilities to be necessary in all cases.

Our process begins once the Dean of Students/Student Affairs has been notified of a student’s death. The Dean of Students then contacts the University Police Department (UPD) for verification, or if the death is not local, searches for an obituary ( or finding the student’s hometown paper often provides this connection). Many reports of student death come in from friends or professors who hear something about the death, which makes verification a crucial step.


  • Create an incident report/file for tracking purposes
  • Create an incident report/file for students believed to be the most affected by the student death and initiates WSU Care Team intervention
  • Send Notification of Student Death to campus partners
    • A document is attached that outlines the following roles for all involved
    • Collect responses from campus partners and add to tracking information


  • Notify University President
    • Notify President’s Executive Team
    • Send official condolences on behalf of the university


  • Coordinate with the academic dean and the faculty most affected by the student’s death
  • Collaborate with academic dean or designee to review student’s record to determine if the student is eligible for a posthumous degree
    • Information re: the awarding of a posthumous degree will be initiated and facilitated through the college of the student’s enrollment at the time of death. This includes contact with the family.


  • Determine if the student had outstanding book rentals
  • If so, coordinate with the Dean of Students to retrieve books


  • Offer support and resources (time and written materials) to students and departments impacted by the loss
  • Assist the family in identifying community resources for assistance if requested
  • Be available to attend on-campus memorial services if the situation permits this and if advised to attend


  • Determine if the student’s financial aid has been disbursed for the current semester
    • If it has not been disbursed
      • The aid will be canceled, and the disbursement will be stopped
    • If it has been disbursed
      • The office reviews the type of aid and initiates any required processes, calculations, and/or notifications to Financial Aid sources
      • The calculations are performed, and any additional processes are enacted


  • Remove and refund (as appropriate) any tuition/fees after the registrar and financial aid offices have finished their changes to the student’s account.


  • Determine if the student is living in on-campus housing
    • If so, coordinate outreach to the impacted community utilizing appropriate campus partners
      • Coordinate removal of student bills/refund if applicable
      • Coordinate with Dean of Students to contact parents/guardians and offer assistance packing up belongings
      • Work with roommates on new space if needed/wanted


  • Determine whether the student is an employee
  • If so
    • Notify appropriate office
    • Process termination
  • Terminate any relevant voluntary payroll deductions (parking, etc.)


  • Mark record deceased in SIS
  • Deactivate the student’s e-mail account
  • Process administrative drop or withdrawal of enrolled classes for the current or future terms
  • Confirm eligibility for a posthumous degree if a recommendation is made by the college
  • Generate diploma and provide to the appropriate contact for delivery to the family


  • Determine if the student has incomplete cases
    • If so, dismiss the case or make necessary contacts to adjudicate without the student (i.e., if the student was not the only party involved and adjudication is still relevant)


  • Determine if the student is involved in any recognized student organization
    • If so, coordinate outreach to impacted community members utilizing appropriate campus partners

Please remember that this list is not exhaustive. Other factors may come into play if the student is from another country (contact International Student programs) or a student-athlete (Athletics).

The cause of the student’s death and where the death took place (i.e., in on or off campus) must also be considered. These factors may add responding to the media to the CSAO’s plate or require the involvement of the campus’ Communications office. There may be a need to call together your BIT or CARE Team to discuss a campus response depending on the student and the nature of the students’ passing.

I hope you never have to use this outline, but if you do I hope it helps ground you in what is always a very emotional part of our work. Thanks to my colleagues at Wichita State University and resources from several institutions for adding to this document.

Aaron L. Austin, Ed.D. (He/Him/His)

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students, Wichita State University


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