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Posthumous Degree Policy -- Discussion Paper

Purpose of the Degree

The Proposed Guidelines for Awarding of Posthumous Degrees for the University of Hawai'i states that the purpose of the degree is "to extend sympathy and compassion to families of deceased students near completion of their degrees." This is consistent with the purposes of other universities such as Texas A & M that has a "long standing tradition of awarding posthumous degrees that recognizes the loss of the university, family, and friends when a student is deceased while enrolled at the university." Texas A & M also considers the posthumous degree "an appropriate recognition of a student's academic achievement when that student's progress would have likely fulfilled the requirements of a degree."

The University of South Florida awards both posthumous degrees and degrees "in memoriam." Posthumous degrees are awarded to deceased students who had completed all substantive requirements for the degree; while degrees in memoriam do not require the completion of all substantive requirements, but requires that the student be "in good standing at the university at the time of his or her death."

Guidelines The Proposed Guidelines for Awarding of Posthumous Degrees for the University of Hawai'i qualifies the award by stating that "these actions must also be balanced with attention to academic and institutional integrity." In support of this consideration, the WASC 2001 Handbook of Accreditation Standard 2.6 maintains that "graduates consistently achieve [the institution's] stated levels of attainment. "

Comparison with Other Universities


The UH proposed policy requires "good academic standing" and "senior status" for baccalaureate degrees or "completion of dissertation, thesis, or Plan B work" for graduate degrees. Criteria from other universities range from merely fulfilling all general education requirements (University of Oregon) to substantially completing the requirements for the degree (Southern Illinois University). Requirements from other institutions have included student academic status and class status, minimum number of credits, completion of a proportion (such as two-thirds) of the requirements for the major, and/or the time of the year or semester at the time of death. The UH proposal also exclusively includes the provision that "the deceased student's cause of death was not due to any unlawful activity." (See attachment).


UH proposed guideline: "A request for the award is made by the deceased student's family." In other institutions a request for a posthumous degree might be initiated by any of the following: a family member, the student's academic dean or department, or the chair of the student's graduate advisory committee. Some universities do not mention who might initiate the request. One institution wants assurance that the family is receptive to the award of the degree.

UH proposed guideline: "The faculty of the deceased student's department and college dean supports the request. Campus offices of the Dean of Student Services will work with the appropriate academic units to respond to requests for the award." The academic department, school, college, Registrar, Faculty Senate, President, Provost, and Chancellor have all been mentioned in the approval process of other institutions. The common decision makers include the department in which the student was majoring and the Registrar.

UH proposed guideline: "Final approval rests with the respective Chancellor or Provost." At other institutions, the President, the Provost, the Chancellor, the major department, the Faculty Senate, and/or the dean of the college have final approval. Most often, it is the top administrator of the institution. One university (Southern Illinois University) specifically notes that the decision does not require Board action.

UH proposed guideline: "Upon approval, the student's name will be listed in the appropriate commencement ceremony program and diploma awarded." Institutions include other procedures upon approval of the award. The University of Oregon stipulates the grade of "P" in the transcript for classes in which the student was enrolled. Ohio and Central Washington waive the graduation application fee. The diploma may be mailed or presented to the family of the deceased student.

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