Boston U Apologizes for Timing of Posthumous Degree Policy

August 14, 2020

Boston University officials apologized for an announcement Wednesday that was potentially fraught, given concerns about the current COVID-19 pandemic, that its governing council had signed off on a posthumous degree policy.

"This is absolutely not a result of the pandemic and we sincerely apologize for the insensitive timing of the announcement," a spokeswoman, Rachel Lapal, said in an email.

The university published policies over the summer that were newly enacted during its spring semester. It announced 14 policies on Wednesday, one of which laid out guidelines for awarding degrees to students who have died. Criteria for such students include having been enrolled in a degree program and having been in good academic standing at time of death.

Boston.com noted that the announcement drew widespread attention on social media.

"Just in case you were worried about the degree part of your child dying from going to campus during a global pandemic," one Twitter user posted.

But university officials said the idea of creating posthumous degree guidelines dates back seven years.

"The development of this policy began in 2013 with the intention to make a difficult discussion and decision more transparent," Lapal said. "At times, we tragically lose a BU student. One of the frequent questions we receive from families is whether we will issue a posthumous degree for their child. Previously, these requests have been processed on a case-by-case basis without clear guidelines or transparency. The Boston University Council has been working for years to formalize a process for these requests, and that policy was approved by the Council this spring."

Boston University is entering a staggered move-in period for students designed to promote physical distancing. The topic of colleges and universities bringing students back to campus has been charged in Boston and in smaller university towns across the country as critics fear large numbers of out-of-state students and even in-state students not observing best practices for preventing viral transmission could lead to local spikes in infections.

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