Boston U. Will Grant Degrees to Students that Die Before Graduation

Boston University
Henry Zbyszynski/Flickr

Boston University announced this week that it will grant posthumous degrees to students that pass away prior to their graduation. However, posthumous degrees will only be awarded to students that completed a substantial amount of coursework in their program prior to their passing.

According to a report by a Boston University student newspaper, the university recently adopted a policy that will grant posthumous degrees to some students that completed a substantial amount of coursework prior to their death.

Boston University spokesperson Colin Riley claims the policy was not adopted in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “There were proposals to formalize this, sadly, when a student passes away, particularly if they’ve been here years,” Riley explained. “It’s unfortunate timing. People may misconstrue.”

Boston University Professor Charles Chang claims that faculty members began discussing the policy following the death of Erin Edwards in late 2019. Edwards was shot three times by her mother in a murder-suicide.

“I don’t think that that case was being discussed as the target of a posthumous degree,” Chang said. “I basically think that that was being brought up as a way of making it real for the people in the room that this was a policy that might actually be used.”

But student reporter Angela Yang claims that Edwards is not eligible for a posthumous degree under the new policy. According to Yang, Edwards does not qualify because she was not in the last semester of her degree program at Boston University.

Death isn’t exactly an easy path to earning a degree at Boston University. Graduate students that pass away before completing their program will only receive a posthumous degree if their professors deem their work to be “substantial.”

“The student’s committee must have determined the scholarship to be substantial work and worthy of the degree,” the new policy reads.

In 2013, the media reported that 11 Boston University students had died during a 13-month period. One Boston University graduate student died during the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013.

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