Although a university official said it’s not likely many IU students will die of COVID-19, any who do may be eligible to receive their degree if they’ve completed enough of it.
The university’s policy on posthumous degrees, which has been in place for decades, requires that 85% of credit hours and most of the student’s major requirements are completed. Since January 2015, IU has awarded 29 degrees posthumously across all campuses, nine of which were awarded at IU-B, said university registrar Jeff Johnston. Usually, a faculty member who knew the student begins the process, and the Dean’s Office and the Office of the Registrar approve the degree.
“Yes, it’s sad to think about, but it’s also an opportunity to celebrate a student’s accomplishments,” Johnston said.
There are no plans to revise the policy in light of the pandemic, he said. He doesn’t think a student’s cause of death should be a factor in the decision to receive a posthumous degree.
Johnston said he believes the policy is fair, and the standards help maintain the prestige of a degree from IU.
Dr. Aaron Carroll, IU’s director of surveillance and mitigation for COVID-19, said he doesn’t have an estimate for how many IU students could die from the virus. He said it’s unlikely that many students will die from COVID-19, considering the low mortality rate for college-aged people and the university’s safety measures.
“The only real tool we have at this point is trying to prevent transmission,” Carroll said.
IU has some measures to prevent transmission and thus student death in place, he said. They include getting symptomatic people access to health care and a diagnostic test, contact tracing, setting aside facilities for people to quarantine or isolate, doing mitigation testing, cutting down on the number of in-person classes, requiring masks and setting up on-campus labs for testing.
Carroll said the low mortality rate shouldn’t keep people from taking the coronavirus seriously. Many longterm effects have been documented, ranging in severity from the loss of smell or taste to heart problems or lung transplants.
“Only focusing on death misses a lot of the morbidity that can come from this,” Carroll said.