Reporting a Death

Guidelines for reporting a death:

Donations & gifts

People often want to do or give something when someone dies. There are a number of ways to memorialize a colleague, such as planting a tree, setting up a scholarship or endowment, establishing a UC Berkeley memorial fund, or donating to a cause of the family's choice.

Requests to plant a tree or dedicate a bench on campus in honor of the deceased should be directed to the Campus Landscape Architect.  He can provide donation information, guidelines, and ideas (type of tree, style of bench) and locations for the recognition.

University Development and Alumni Relations can help develop a memorial fund. If you have decided to establish a memorial fund at the university, you may want to include that information in the obituary. Donors can make gifts in memory of their family members, staff colleagues, etc. on-line at give.berkeley.edu and by sending in a gift to:

University of California, Berkeley
Gift Services
1995 University Avenue, Suite 400
Berkeley, CA 94704-1070

For questions about making a memorial gift, please contact Gift Services at gifthelp@berkeley.edu

Family of deceased & travel expenses

Sometimes it is difficult for families of students who live out-of-state to afford the cost of traveling to campus to attend memorials, flag-lowering ceremonies and to collect their child's belongings.

The campus will help defray these travel costs under certain circumstances. If the department does not have sufficient funds to cover these costs, assistance can be sought from the appropriate dean or vice chancellor of the department's control unit.

If a student dies during a university activity, or on university property, the coordinator may offer to compensate the family's travel expenses, regardless of the family's ability to pay.

The coordinator can also offer to help the family defray travel expenses if the costs will pose a financial hardship for the family.

Cause of death - special considerations

There may be times when it is necessary to offer health education to campus members following a campus death. This will be helpful to furthering their understanding of the cause of death in cases of suicide or communicable disease.

Education also may be useful when death is due to alcohol or drug use, violence, a motor vehicle accident, natural disaster or in a multiple death situation.

For more information, visit Grief and Loss Information.

Contact University Health Services for both written materials and speakers for "Cause of Death" education and counseling.

Multiple deaths

If there are multiple campus deaths that occurred at the same time, the vice chancellor from the relevant control unit should select a lead coordinator. The head coordinator should be from a higher administrative level and could come from the dean's office, the vice chancellor's office or the chancellor's office.

Posthumous awards

The Department Chair and/or Dean of the School or College will forward recommendations regarding the award of a posthumous degree to the Office of the Dean of the Graduate Division. The Graduate Dean will make the final determination.

A posthumous award will be considered if there is sufficient evidence that the deceased would have likely earned the degree in, or close to, normative time.

The posthumous award may be announced to colleagues and coworkers and acknowledged at the appropriate ceremony. The actual diploma or announcement will be sent to the designated family member.

Transportation of remains

In some instances, the university may assume financial responsibility for the transportation of remains out of the country or state.

If a student, visiting scholar or post doc dies, the vice-chancellor in charge of the deceased's unit would consider paying if there is financial need.

If death occurs during the course of studies, scholarly activities or a university sponsored activity, the vice chancellor will consider funding the transportation of remains regardless of responsible party or financial need.

Personal and professional possessions

Personal Possessions
Personal possessions should be inventoried, packed and safely stored until the family is ready to retrieve them. Two people should pack and document the items for security reasons.

For the death of a student living in a residence hall, the Residential Life Coordinator should consult with the facilities manager, the deceased's parents and the UC Police to pack, inventory and store the student's personal belongings.

For students who lived in off-campus housing, the coordinator should address the issue with the family.

Discuss arrangements for retrieval with the family representative at an appropriate time. Be sensitive to the family's emotions.

If the family is not interested in retrieving personal items from the campus or workplace, they may be distributed to colleagues as mementos.

Some students may have a lab locker, or space in a department which holds personal possessions. It would be worthwhile for the coordinator to inquire with a student's main department if this might be the case. 

Professional and Academic Possessions 
In addition to personal possessions, there may be extensive academic and professional possessions, including libraries, books and articles in progress, artifacts, collections, etc. When this occurs, someone from the department who is familiar with the academic content of these items could act as a departmental liaison with the family to assist with decision-making and communications concerning the possessions. 

Department heads, liaisons and involved staff should work closely with the family to arrive at a humane and workable method and schedule for the cataloguing, storage and/or distribution of professional and academic possessions

As family members may feel overwhelmed by these decisions and related activities, anyone working with the family members may want to be particularly sensitive to the timing and depth of these discussions and actions. In addition, there may be legal issues to address regarding ownership and use of the materials that are particularly sensitive and may cause delays in their distribution.