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Responding to the Death of a Student Procedures

Classification number ADM 1399.01
Framework category Administrative
Approving authority Senior Leadership Team
Policy owner Vice-President, Academic and Provost
Approval date January 2012
Review date November 2022
Last updated July 2019; November 2019


The University’s Procedures for Responding to the Death of a Student outline the process for addressing the human and operational aspects of a Student death in a way that respects the privacy needs of the Student and their family and ensures a timely, supportive and co-ordinated response.


“Student” means any individual registered as a Student, in accordance with the academic regulations of the University.
“University Member” means any individual who is:
  • Employed by the University (“Employee”);
  • Registered as a Student (“Student”);
  • Holding an appointment with the University, including paid, unpaid and/or honorific appointments; and/or
  • Otherwise subject to University policies by virtue of the requirements of a specific policy (e.g. Booking and Use of University Space) and/or the terms of an agreement or contract.

Scope and Authority

These Procedures apply to all University Members at the University.
The Provost and Vice President, Academic or successor thereof, is the Policy Owner and is responsible for overseeing the implementation, administration and interpretation of these Procedures.



  1. If a University Member becomes aware of the death of a Student, or suspected death of a Student, the matter must immediately be reported to the Assistant Vice-President, Student Life (AVP Student Life).
  2. The AVP Student Life will in turn notify the Dean of the faculty in which the Student is enrolled (the Dean), as well as the President, Provost, Registrar, VP (External Relations), Director, Office of Campus Safety and Security (Director, OCSS). For graduate students, the Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies will also be notified.
  3. The AVP Student Life, together with the Director, OCSS and the Registrar, will then verify that the death has occurred, confirm the Student’s status at the University, and obtain any additional details that may be available at that time to aid in the University’s response.
  4. Once the death has been verified, the AVP Student Life will contact 1) the Dean, 2) VP (External Relations) and 3) the Registrar to co-ordinate the University’s response.
  5. The Dean (or delegate) will serve as the single point of contact for the Student’s family and members of the campus community in co-ordinating the University’s response.
  6. The Registrar will provide information from the Student records to assist in the response, including contact information for the family, course schedule and photo where available.
  7. The AVP Student Life will work closely with the Dean, VP External Relations and Registrar to ensure the following:
    • The information conveyed is accurate and appropriate under the circumstances,
    • The evolving needs of the community are assessed on an ongoing basis, and
    • The University’s overall response proceeds in a timely, supportive and co-ordinated manner.
  8. The Director, Communications (or delegate) will act as the official spokesperson in dealing with news media and with queries from the external community; the Manager, Communications will also disseminate (as appropriate) the information about the Student’s death to the University community.
  9. Other University Members, including the Emergency Management Response Team, may be notified on a need-to-know basis.
  10. At all times, the wishes of the family and the privacy of the Student’s personal information must be protected, and no information regarding the circumstances of the Student’s death, funeral arrangements, their status as a Student shall be released to third parties by anyone other than the Director, Communications.


Coordination of the University's Response

  1. The AVP Student Life, in partnership with the Dean, will work with the following groups in order to minimize as much as possible the administrative activities that would be required of the family of the deceased.
    1. Dean’s office, to serve as the single point of contact with the Student’s family or next of kin, contacting the Student’s family and expressing the University’s condolences, both verbally and in writing, consulting with the family on the release of information to the campus community and media (if requested), obtaining details of the funeral arrangements, arranging for the removal of the Student’s personal effects in the areas identified below, and assisting with any concerns the family may have;
    2. Dean’s office to contact relevant University Members (e.g. faculty advisors, advisors and deans in other faculties where the Student may be taking courses, and instructors and TAs for the courses the Student was enrolled in) to relay general information about the death, provide special messaging for them to relay to Students, and address any concerns or need for support University Members may have; to obtain any assignments; and to remove the Student’s address from any faculty mailing lists;
    3. Registrar’s office or Graduate Studies office to deactivate the Student’s record, withdraw the Student from classes, clear the Student’s account (which may include providing a refund for tuition paid in the current and future academic terms), provide information regarding the Student’s OSAP loans, clear any outstanding library and parking fees, generate tax notices, remove the Student’s address from any University mailing lists, and other details as required;
    4. Student Mental Health services to provide professional support and counselling to Students, work with academic advisors to reach out to Students who may be affected by the death (whether individually or in groups where appropriate), and liaise with faculty to arrange accommodations for Students who may be profoundly affected by the loss and provide referrals to outside agencies as necessary;
    5. Human Resources to arrange for on-site counselling for faculty and staff and/or referrals to the University Employee Assistance Plan;
    6. International student services (when applicable), to notify the embassy/consulate of the deceased, liaise with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and provide other assistance as needed;
    7. IT services to co-ordinate the identification of the Student’s information on university networks and accounts;
    8. Access and Privacy office to co-ordinate disclosure of the contents on the Student’s laptop and email account as requested;
    9. University Student Union to facilitate any applicable insurance claim and co-ordinate Students’ expressions of condolences to the family as appropriate;
    10. Residence manager (when applicable), to contact roommates and floormates, arrange for on-site counselling support where needed, and arrange for the removal or storage of the Student’s personal effects.
    11. Campus security to liaise with law enforcement in obtaining details that may assist in the University’s response, where appropriate.
  2. Where the University receives notice about the death of an alumni, or a prospective or former Student, the AVP Student Life will work with the Dean, Registrar and Alumni Office as necessary to ensure that the Student’s records are cleared, convey the University’s condolences to the family, and consult with them on the release of information to the campus or alumni community.

Media Relations

  1. The Director, Communications will be the main point of contact for inquiries from news media and the external community concerning the Student’s death. Unless there is a compelling reason not to do so, and after the Dean has consulted with the family, the Director will co-ordinate the circulation of an announcement about the Student’s death to the University community through campus email. The message may contain the Student’s name and program, date of death, funeral arrangements, counselling support, commemorative activities, and potential donations or in memoriam gifts, as appropriate.
  2. The Director will also contact the appropriate representative in the campus facilities department and security office to arrange for the flags to be lowered to half-mast on the day of the funeral or memorial service.
  3. The Director will also advise Durham College’s Executive Director, Communications and Marketing (or delegate) of the University’s announcement about a Student’s death.

Monitoring and Review

These Procedures will be reviewed as necessary and at least every three years. The AVP Student Life, or successor thereof, is responsible to monitor and review these Procedures.

Relevant Legislation

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

Related Policies, Procedures, and Documents