By Lindsay Huffman
Losing someone you knew and loved is never easy. Whether that person was a relative, a friend or a mentor, a loss is always difficult to bear. And when someone dies at a young age, the loss is even more tragic. People usually pay homage to the deceased by giving some sort of offering, whether it is a donation in honor of the family or a simple visit to the funeral home to say goodbye.
But what is the role of the university? When a student passes away, how does Eastern administration handle a very delicate and painful situation?
There is a protocol outlined by the university for such emergencies, said James Conneely, the vice president for Student Affairs. Conneely said the first step is finding out the information about a student’s death, whether it comes from a faculty member, another student, a family member or other means.
Conneely said that if a faculty member or student hears of anything related to a possible student death, Student Affairs should be notified immediately.
“We want to help, but we can’t if we don’t know what’s going on,” said Claire Good, the associate vice president for Student Affairs and the dean of students.
When Student Affairs learns of a possible death, they verify that the information is correct and that the deceased was indeed a member of the campus community. After they verify information about the student, they then notify the president of the university and ensure that correspondence with the student’s family, such as university bills, is discontinued.
“We want to take one of the burdens off [the family] as they deal with [their loss],” Good said.
Finally, the university informs the rest of the campus about the student’s death. Good said in order for the registrar to acknowledge the passing of a student, an obituary must be provided. This information, in turn, is used to inform campus members about funeral arrangements, etc.
“We A), want to assist the family, and B), assist the friends, other students, faculty, anyone who knew the student and is a part of the EKU community,” Conneely said.
Information about services on campus to help students, faculty and staff deal with loss, is also provided by the university. The Counseling Center is one such service, which is free to any student currently enrolled in a course at Eastern.
Conneely and Good also said Eastern tries to send someone from the university to the visitation or funeral service of the student.
“When he or she comes to campus, we invite the student to be a part of the EKU family,” Conneely said.
“We want the family to know that we care about the student, and that they weren’t just a name here,” Good said.