Office of the VP for Student Life

Resources in the Event of a Student Death

Deceased Student Notices

In the sad and unfortunate event of a death that occurs while a student is enrolled at the University of Washington, the Office of the Vice President for Student Life serves as the campus’ official point of notification. Once notified of a student’s passing, the office will begin to work with family, faculty, and staff to resolve the University-related affairs of the deceased. Often there is a need for emotional support among the family, friends, and classmates of the student, and in collaboration with colleagues in the Counseling Center, Student Life is able to provide a tailored response appropriate to the student’s relationships on campus.

If you have a notification or a question, please contact us at stulife@uw.edu or 206-543-4972.

How Should I Respond?

Following a student death or tragic accident, staff and faculty, especially those who directly worked with or supported a student, may find themselves needing to respond to in-person, email, or phone requests from students or community members, or to social media chatter faster than a response is available from central University administration.

To support you in times when you need to respond to such requests, the following language has been developed for you to utilize:

It can be hard to hear about difficult situations in our community. Please know that support resources are available at the UW during the week – the Counseling Center or Hall Health provide a safe and confidential place to process any reactions you may be having.  Contact information can be found here. In addition, UW has recently launched a new drop in program, Let’s Talk, that allows you to connect with experienced counselors without an appointment during walk-in hours at several sites on campus.

UW’s Typical Process in the Event of a Student Death

There are several factors that may determine what happens in the hours and days immediately following the death of a student, and some of these factors will impact how much is known, how much is shared, and what happens next.

How UW Learns of a Student Death

The UW learns of a student death in a variety of ways, most often directly from the family or from a partner agency such as the Seattle Police Department. If the death occurs on the UW campus, the UW Police Department is generally the first to notify the Office of the Vice President for Student Life. The University relies on local authorities, such as the King County Medical Examiner, to make official determinations and notifications to families.

When the University becomes aware of a student death, the following actions are typically taken…

Typical Sequence of Events:

  1. UW will first try to ensure that the family is notified so that they do not learn of the death through social media or other means without the requisite support and care.
  2. UW will make all efforts possible to identify the student’s classes, social circles, residence hall/Greek house, etc., and begin outreach to impacted parties.
  3. UW will deploy a range of support services that are as responsive and expedient as possible following a student death. Examples may include:
    • A Student Care Team representative visiting a department, residence hall/Greek house, or other impacted community.
    • Student Life posting the next available “College Dogs” opportunity, which are generally open to all and give people the chance to reduce stress and anxiety with a therapy dog.
    • Center for Undergraduate Advising, Diversity, and Student Success offering drop-in sessions for students.
  4. The Counseling Center and Hall Health Mental Health will work with departments and impacted students to curate the support services needed.
  5. The UW President will reach out to the family with condolences and relevant resources.
  6. The Vice President for Student Life will follow up with the family following the President’s message with additional offers of support.
  7. Student Life will initiate protocols that help the family resolve the student’s affairs with the UW, including (but not limited to): recouping tuition when possible, unregistering from classes, alerting faculty and teaching assistants, activating insurance, removing fees, removing from mailing lists, etc.

Many factors, including the nature of the incident, the impact on the UW community, the wishes of the family, and resolution of any police investigation, will all shape the nature, scope, and timing of the UW response and any announcements to students.