NYU protects the privacy of family in cases of student death

March 4, 2013

Rachel Kaplan/WSN

 

When a student passes away, colleges and universities make a decision about whether to notify the student body.

After a senior at Syracuse University passed away on Feb. 23, the school sent out a mass email to its students, staff and faculty members, and began to plan an internal ceremony. Stony Brook University and Boston University also sent out a mass email to the entire school when students passed away on Feb. 18 and this past weekend respectively.

But when an NYU student Kyle Larson passed away last semester after being hit by a truck while riding his skateboard, no email was sent out to the NYU student body. NYU spokesman Philip Lentz explained that in many cases family members request to keep the cicumstances confidential to maintain the family’s privacy.

“In the aftermath of a tragic loss of a student or any member of the NYU community, the university respects the wishes of the family and works with loved ones to act in accordance with their preferences,” he said.

When Professor José Vásquez passed away in early February, students in the Liberal Studies Program were notified. However, many students, including CAS junior Manjiri Nadkarni, believe the student body should be informed when a member passes away, especially at a widespread school like NYU.

“This is a big school in a big city, but we still need community,” she said. “If a student passes away, we lose a member of our community, and it would be a respectful thing for the administration to do.”

For others, even a brief notificaiton is not enough. At times, safety should come before privacy. Boston University freshman Sarah Fisher was surprised when all students were notified about the death of a student, but the email failed to mention the cause.

“I think it’s important for the students to know what’s going on,” she said. “I know it sparked some conversation on drinking safely and Greek life itself.”

Syracuse University Senior Vice President for Public Affairs Kevin Quinn explained that the college notifies the student’s family first, but always sends a campus-wide email about the death.

“To my knowledge, we have never had an instance in which the family asked us not to send out a message, and oftentimes they find it comforting knowing their child [or] loved one is being remembered by our campus,” Quinn said.

Rather than sending out a mass email, Lentz says the NYU Health Center focuses on the students and faculty that are most affected by the tragic event.

“NYU’s Wellness Exchange routinely conducts in-person outreach to the students and faculty most likely shaken by the loss of a peer, friend or protégé — those in the student’s current classes, teaching assistants, professors and roommates,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the March 4 print edition. Moumita Basuroychowdhur is a contributing writer. Email her at investigative@nyunews.com.

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