I. Policy and Purpose
When the death of a student occurs, it is the responsibility of the University to respond in a sensitive and appropriate manner, recognizing that individuals respond in different ways to different circumstances that may surround a death. The University recognizes that the death of a student affects the entire University community, as well as the family and friends of the deceased.
The purpose of this Policy is to establish procedures that will support an orderly, effective, and caring response in the unfortunate event of a student death. Considering the very sensitive and unpredictable nature of a death, no policy or protocol can describe in complete detail all the steps that must be taken by the University. This Policy sets forth guidelines to support communications and notifications in the event of a student death. Those responsible for implementing this Policy should be guided by the essential communication needs required in these situations, as well as by empathy, sensitivity, and support for the bereaved and the need to preserve important evidence in some instances.
Medical examiner: An individual duly appointed and licensed in the State of North Carolina to conduct postmortem investigations, to determine the cause and manner of death in certain situations, and to perform other duties set forth in N.C.G.S. Section 130A, Article 16 – Postmortem Investigation and Disposition, as that statute may be amended from time to time.
Postvention: The provision of systematic crisis intervention, support, and assistance for those affected by a crisis. Postvention strategies are designed to minimize significant traumatic reactions. Postvention services provide appropriate emotional support and information to those affected by a crisis.
Primary Contact: The Dean of Students and/or a designee from the Division of Student Affairs, who may be appointed by and at the discretion of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs to serve as the single point of contact for family members who wish to speak with University faculty, staff, or students concerning the death of a student.
Student: An individual who is enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program at the University at the time of death; or an individual who has completed the immediate preceding term at the University and is eligible for re-enrollment, in the event the death occurs during the recess period between fall and spring semesters or summer sessions.
University-sponsored travel: Travel, including field trips or international programs, that is led by a University employee or for which academic credit is awarded, or any other travel administered by, conducted under the direction of, or with financial support from, any University department, program, or office.
While this Policy applies to currently enrolled, degree-seeking students, it is also appropriate to follow the procedures in this Policy in case of the death of a distance education student, a visiting exchange or international student, or an English Language Training Institute (“ELTI”) student.
1. Notification of Appropriate Campus Officials
The Dean of Students or designee should notify the following offices by email and/or phone, or otherwise ensure that these offices have been notified of a student death:
a. Immediate Notifications – contact immediately upon being informed of a student death
- Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
- Police and Public Safety
- Housing and Residence Life (if deceased is a residential student)
b. Primary Notifications – contact as soon as possible
- Chancellor’s Office
- Legal Affairs
- Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
- Associate Vice Chancellor for Risk Management, Safety, and Security
- International Students and Scholars Office/Office of Education Abroad (if deceased is an international student or a student abroad)
- Director of Athletics (if deceased is a student-athlete)
- Director of Student Activities (if a student death occurs on a Venture Program trip)
- Dean of the Graduate School (if a student is a graduate student)
- Appropriate Academic Dean or Department Head
- University Communications
- Counseling Center
c. Secondary Notifications – contact as soon as practical
- Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs
- University Advancement
- Office of Student Financial Aid
- Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer
- Office of the Bursar
- Student Health Center
- Office of the Registrar
- Graduate School (if deceased is a graduate student)
- University Career Center (if deceased has been participating in an internship)
- Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources
- Appropriate academic college/program and current faculty
- Director of Student Activities
- 49er Card Office
- Parking and Transportation Services
- Dean of the Library
- Other offices as appropriate
2. Student Death On Campus
- If a student death occurs on campus, Police and Public Safety (704-687-2200 or Ext. 7-2200) should be notified immediately. Police and Public Safety will contact the appropriate emergency medical provider to attend to the body. Police and Public Safety will assist local law enforcement to investigate all deaths on campus to determine whether the death was the result of foul play.
- If a student death occurs in a residence hall, the residence hall staff member immediately involved should call Police and Public Safety and describe the situation.
- As soon as possible after a student’s death on campus, and in order to avoid possible miscommunication of facts by third parties to the student’s family, Police and Public Safety will contact the next of kin listed as the emergency contact on file with the Banner Information System to provide notification of the death and shall indicate whether the death is being investigated by local law enforcement. Police and Public Safety will provide the next of kin with the name and telephone number of the Primary Contact with whom the family can speak. This notification may happen in coordination with or separate from notification by the local law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the death occurred.
- If the deceased is an international or ELTI student, the Dean of Students or designee shall contact the International Students and Scholars Office as soon as possible to determine the appropriate method of family notification.
3. Student Death Off Campus
a. Response to any student death occurring off campus will be handled initially by the local law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the death occurred, the medical examiner, and/or the hospital where the student was taken. It is the responsibility of one or more of these agencies to notify the next of kin.
b. If a student death occurs in the City of Charlotte or Mecklenburg County, Police and Public Safety may be notified by the corresponding law enforcement agency. In the event another campus official is informed of the student's death, that official must contact Police and Public Safety or the Dean of Students as soon as possible to convey the information.
c. If a student death occurs during University-sponsored travel in the United States, the University staff member accompanying the trip should immediately contact local emergency services and the local law enforcement agency. As soon as possible once the situation is secured, the University staff member must contact Police and Public Safety or the Dean of Students.
d. If a student death occurs while the student is studying abroad:
- The program leader or representative of the host institution should contact local emergency services, local law enforcement, and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate before contacting the Office of Education Abroad.
- The Office of Education Abroad must notify Police and Public Safety and the Dean of Students.
- The Office of Education Abroad should work to obtain official confirmation of student’s death from the U.S. Department of State.
- Police and Public Safety will assist the Office of Education Abroad in obtaining official confirmation of a student death in the event that confirmation is not immediately forthcoming.
- It is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of State to notify the student’s next of kin of the student’s death.
- The Office of Education Abroad will work with the UNC Charlotte international insurance provider to begin the process of repatriation of the student’s remains.
- The Dean of Students will coordinate with the Office of Education Abroad to activate the Student Postvention Response Team as needed.
- The program leader or faculty director should follow the procedures outlined in this Policy and any other applicable policies or procedures of the Office of Education Abroad.
e. If the deceased is an international or ELTI student, the Dean of Students or designee shall contact the International Students and Scholars Office as soon as possible to determine the appropriate method of family notification.
4. Student Postvention Response Team
The Dean of Students will identify appropriate University administrators to serve on the Student Postvention Response Team. That group’s responsibilities will include but will not be limited to the following:
- Convene, at the direction of the Dean of Students or designee, upon receiving news of a student death; and
- Provide assistance, upon request and at the direction of the Dean of Students or designee, in making communications to relevant members of the University community or otherwise providing support in the event of a student death.
5. Family Communication
- At the discretion of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the Dean of Students and/or a designee from the Division of Student Affairs who is familiar with the situation may be assigned as the Primary Contact with the deceased student’s family.
- The Primary Contact will serve as the single point of contact for family members who wish to speak with faculty, staff, or students concerning the death of their student.
- The Primary Contact may utilize the Student Postvention Response Team or other relevant members of the University community as resources.
6. Campus Community Notification
- Upon notification of a student death, Police and Public Safety will send out a timely Campus Safety Alert if it is determined there is an ongoing threat to the campus community.
- Other than the Campus Safety Alert (if any), the Division of Student Affairs, in consultation with the Student Postvention Response Team and University Communications, will determine as soon as practical what notifications will be made to the campus community and how those notifications will be communicated.
7. External Communications and Media
- All external media requests for information should be directed to University Communications. University Communications will be responsible for collecting and disseminating information about a student death to the external media. University Communications will work with Police and Public Safety, the Division of Student Affairs, and the Office of Legal Affairs to maintain the accuracy and ensure the legality of the information disseminated.
- Under North Carolina law, only a medical examiner has authority to determine the cause and manner of a death that is not attended by medical personnel and other types of death, including but not limited to deaths that might reasonably have been due to a violent or traumatic injury or accident. Accordingly, no person involved in the University’s response to a student death may speculate as to the cause of death or make statements assigning responsibility for the cause of death. Responses to requests for such information by the external media or others should indicate that the University will cooperate fully with the agencies and officials charged with investigating and determining the cause and circumstances of the death.
- The Office of the Chancellor, in consultation with the Offices of University Communications and Legal Affairs as appropriate, will be responsible for communications with the office of the UNC President, UNC General Administration, the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees, the Foundation Board, and other constituents of the University.
8. Disclosure of Records/Release of Records
Many individuals and offices, including individual faculty members, Housing and Residence Life, the Registrar, the Bursar, Student Health Center, Counseling Center, and others may receive requests for information about a deceased student from third parties. All such requests for information should be referred to the Primary Contact. Such requests will be considered on an individual basis, in consultation with the Office of Legal Affairs as appropriate. Primary consideration will be given to requests that are supported in writing by the deceased’s immediate or surviving family.
V. Roles and Responsibilities
The Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs is responsible for administering this Policy, and the Dean of Students or designee has primary notification and communication responsibility under this Policy. Other responsibilities are as specifically set forth in this Policy.