Starting this fall, any student studying at Boston University will be able to receive a posthumous degree if they die before graduation.
The Daily Free Press reports that B.U. spokesperson Colin Riley confirmed the new policy for students, although it was actually instated in June despite only just being announced. Riley added that meetings regarding the policy first started in January, and that it was not a response to the coronavirus pandemic. "There were proposals to formalize this, sadly, when a student passes away, particularly if they’ve been here years," Riley said. "It’s unfortunate timing. People may misconstrue."
For late students to receive a posthumous degree, they must have finished all of their academic work, although their thesis or dissertation can simply be "near completion."
"The student’s committee must have determined the scholarship to be substantial work and worthy of the degree," the policy reads. Another requirement for eligibility is that the student would need to have been in good academic standing, and were within one semester of finishing their course.
The criteria regarding the policy adds that students have to have been considered "likely" to pass in order to receive the degree. If a student dies before the final semester at Boston University, though, they can still receive a Certificate of Academic Achievement if they "made some progress" toward their degree.
It's worth pointing out that other universities have had posthumous degree policies in place for years, with the University of Minnesota and UCLA implementing such policies in 2003 and 2014 respectively, for example. They're far from the only schools to offer posthumous degrees, but the timing of Boston University's implementation is certainly raising eyebrows.
See some reactions to the policy below.