Death is everywhere, even though many people probably wish that were not the case. It is a sad event for nearly everyone involved, and people handle the grief in different ways. Sometimes it can even be traumatizing and lead a person to suffer from depression as a result of losing someone close to him or her.
Last year, ISU reassessed its bereavement policy to specifically mention how many excused absences a student may receive from class if the person who died was a close family member or domestic partner. Proof of funeral arrangements is necessary, and that is completely understandable because people may take advantage of the policy if there were no method of enforcing it.
However, this Editorial Board would like to point out that the exceptions that occur are important to consider. Significant others, close friends, and even pets that have been in a person’s life for awhile can also cause much grief and can be distracting for a student who must attend class.
The Dean of Students Office allows students to make arrangements for the deaths of those listed in the policy and offers special arrangements for others not listed specifically in the policy, but it can be difficult to provide documentation for deaths outside of the family. If a person’s boyfriend, girlfriend, or close friend dies, the student would not be the next of kin who would receive the information about the death. Provided that the deceased person had a funeral or at the very least, a memorial service, that would be easy to prove as far as documentation because prayer cards are often used. However, cremation brings up another barrier because the only real documentation would be a death announcement and an obituary, and in some cases, that may not be enough. Additionally, it is not as though the student would be listed as a survivor in any of these cases so it could cause problems in the future.
The death of a pet is also a difficult scenario because they do not receive the same sort of death procedures as humans. And while a goldfish may not live very long, dogs, cats, rabbits, and other four-legged creatures can live for quite some time, and the death of one of those could cause severe trauma for a student if he or she had owned the pet for years.
Furthermore, the travel considerations listed in the bereavement policy essentially give a student a specific number of additional days to miss based off of mileage. If a person lives relatively close, however, the student is not allowed any additional excused absences, but could still have problems driving because of the grief.
While a bereavement policy obviously has to be in place and there are exceptions to every rule, the policy at ISU seems to boil down to the fact that students are given a certain amount of time to grieve, which cannot always be the case. Individual professors may notice if a student is missing class or struggling in a class due to grief, but as a whole, students having difficulty in classes because of deaths that are not noted by the Dean of Students should still be given time to grieve. There is no set way or length to grieve for someone, and it is the Editorial Board’s hope that professors take this into consideration, provided that students tell them what is going on in their lives and also make an effort to get past the grief in a healthy way, such as going to Student Counseling Services.