Dealing with a death in the University community
There is never a time when death does not affect us, it may be subtle or more pronounced. Whatever the circumstance we often need answers. When a student or staff member dies while still a member of the university we ensure an appropriate response. Sometimes it can feel unclear what the University is doing in such a circumstance, we have designed this information page to help clarify the behind the scenes efforts that our teams offer when we lose someone.
When the University becomes aware of a loss, we start by meeting with key members of the leadership team. This is to create a response plan which will enable us to focus on the next steps as well as support those who have been affected by the news.
We are always mindful of the friends and family of the deceased, checking that the next of kin are happy with any actions we take is a priority. Some family members wish us not to talk about the circumstances of the death, this is a very personal decision and UoR respects the choices of the next of kin. We also have to consider the police and the coroner's guidance, as they may be investigating the death, and we would have to ensure we do not get in the way of that process. This often means a delay in us telling our community so as not to interfere with their work. The University does not tell next of kin about a death, we report it to the police in the first instance, and the police connect with family.
On occasion we may have to break the news to other students, staff or others connected with the university. When this happens we have staff members who make those very difficult calls, and a press team who help with communication more widely. Social media can be very upsetting to the family of the deceased so where possible we avoid any such sad news being released online. We do communicate by email and phone with those who need to know what happened. It allows us to be more personal and respect the next of kins wishes. It also allows us to provide support guidance so that people are not alone with their grief.
There are certain times during the year, for example exams or summer, when the University has to also consider the further impact of releasing such news. We still reach out to all who may be affected and share with them key support mechanisms but we are mindful that the news may negatively impact them. We work very hard to identify and support any students or staff who are vulnerable and may be impacted by the death.
After a period of time the University will organise a memorial. We normally wait until the family agree to this. We open the invitation as it helps people process the loss. We ask our community to share with us any supportive messages and to alert us to any messages of concern so we can reach out to those negatively affected. We also ask that any impromptu events be alerted to support staff and not to collude with rumours around the death.
We have worked very closely with the Samaritans in developing an appropriate response to a death in our community, and we always look at ways to improve our working.