Protocol in the event of the death of a student

Updated: April, 2018

Guiding Principles

The University’s response to the death of a student will be guided by the following principles:

  1. Respect and dignity for the student, the student’s family and friends.
  2. Respect for the family’s wishes and privacy.
  3. Concern for the well-being and support of current students and campus community.
  4. Discretion in the disclosure of information regarding the cause of death.
  5. Cooperation with police, coroner and other external officials as required, and compliance with any and all relevant legislation.
  6. Transparency and openness, as appropriate, while respecting the principles cited above.


On becoming aware of the death of a student, it is important that the University of Waterloo’s communications are appropriate, compassionate, coordinated and timely. This document is intended to guide all related communication activity in a systematic and responsive manner, while also acknowledging each situation is unique and should therefore be assessed accordingly.

Support Overview

The Associate Provost, Students will be the initial and primary contact for the family of a deceased student.  The Associate Provost, Students will assist the family with any and all related needs on campus, including their wishes for public communications with the campus community, their wishes for a memorial, any visits to campus and the settling of the student account.

The Associate Provost, Students will ensure support for the campus community is provided through Campus Wellness as well as other services and will provide input to determining appropriate communications (see below).

Communication overview

Notifying campus leaders:

  • The Associate Provost, Students or the Director, UW Police Services will normally provide initial notification of a death. The notification list will include the President, Provost, University Secretary, Dean and most appropriate Associate Dean of the student’s faculty, the Vice-President, University Relations, the Associate Vice-President, Communications, and other campus community members as required, for example co-op, residences, Affiliated and Federated Institutions of Waterloo (AFIW), Federation of Students (FEDS) Graduate Student Association (GSA). The Dean will advise faculty and staff within the faculty as appropriate.
  • The above is not an exhaustive list and the University will use best judgement in each circumstance in determining who will receive information about cause of student death.

Notifying the campus community:

  • When a student dies, the University will consider posting an announcement on the University website to notify our community. The associate vice-president, communication will make a recommendation, normally after the next of kin is informed of the death.
    • In exceptional circumstances, such as when news of the death is in the public domain or released by authorities, the University may share the information with the community before next of kin are informed.

Additional information:

  • Permission from the family and respect for their privacy will guide the decision to release additional information about the death including, but not limited to, the cause of death or the name of the deceased.
    • In the case of a threat to the campus community or public safety, the University may need to release cause of death without consulting the next of kin. This decision will be guided by appropriate authorities.
    • Details included in the University’s communication will be limited to the deceased’s name (if the next of kin agree, see above), program and year of study and the information released by the family (unless already published by the media).
  • The name of the student may be considered to be in the public domain if released by police or in an obituary.
  • The University will provide further information, such as funeral arrangements, at the direction of the next of kin only.