Community Death Notification Protocol


The following protocol outlines the process by which the Dartmouth community is to be notified of the passing of a current student, staff or faculty member.  

The Dartmouth community is not formally notified of the passing of Dartmouth alumni or retired and/or emeriti faculty members via a public campus communication, though occasionally a rare exception may be made at the sole discretion of the President. It is, however, customary for the head of a department in which a retired or emeriti faculty member worked to communicate news of the individual's passing to the department, if desired.

The Dartmouth flag is lowered to half-mast in honor of any current students, current and emeritus faculty, current employees (which includes all exempt, non-exempt, and union staff), current and emeritus trustees, and current and emeritus senior officers who have died. See the policy and procedures for requesting that the Dartmouth flag be lowered.  Once again, a rare exception may be made to lower the flag for an alumnus at the sole discretion of the President.


The objectives of this protocol are to:

  • Bring greater consistency to the content, tone and method of Dartmouth's community death notices;
  • Establish a clearly defined process for senior leaders as to their respective responsibilities for communications when a member of the Dartmouth community dies;
  • Institute a crystal-clear policy around how Dartmouth will handle cause of death in its communications pertaining to faculty, staff and student deaths;
  • Help expedite the notification process and ensure that all relevant information is included in each notice; and
  • Minimize the chance that Dartmouth inadvertently communicates something against the wishes of the family of the deceased.


Under this protocol, the subset of the Dartmouth community most directly affected by the individual's passing is to be notified by the relevant Dean/VP first, with the remainder of campus notified via a posting to a dedicated "In memoriam" page on the President's Office Website, with a link to such page to be included in the VOX posting that follows about the flag lowering in the deceased individual's honor immediately thereafter. 

Specifically, the Dean/VP of the division in which the deceased individual studied/worked will be responsible for:
a)    notifying and/or being in touch with the deceased individual's family in advance of any communication going out to the Dartmouth community;
b)    drafting the initial death notice to be distributed to their division or school, seeking help from the Dartmouth Office of Communications, as needed; sample notifications that can be used as a guide can also be obtained through the Office of the President. The Dean/VP has the discretion to distribute the notice beyond their division or school.
c)    coordinating the timing of message distribution with the Office of Communications and the Office of the President; and 
d)    arranging for the Dartmouth flag to be lowered per the designated instructions

For example, if an undergraduate student dies, responsibility will fall to the Dean of the College. If a faculty member in Arts & Sciences dies, responsibility will fall to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences.  If a student or staff member at Tuck dies, responsibility will fall to the Dean of the Tuck School. Deans may choose to designate the responsibility of drafting the notification message or arranging for the flag to be lowered to other members of their staffs, though they shall remain the primary point person/liaison to colleagues across campus and the family of the deceased with respect to death the notification process and shall, in every instance, be the signatory on the initial communication to their respective schools/divisions.

As soon as the communication from the relevant Dean/VP is distributed, the message will be published on a dedicated "In memoriam" page on the President's Office Website. A link to that note will then be included in the VOX posting that is published regarding the flag lowering in the deceased individuals honor immediately thereafter. The posting will live on the President's Office site for one month from the date of posting.

In instances when a senior leader dies, all of campus will be notified.  Appeals to this policy can be made to the President's Office.

This process ensures a logical flow of information and allows for the Dean or leader of the division in which the deceased individual studied/worked to speak in detail about the person's contributions to campus while offering high-level condolences to the family and, as needed, highlighting campus resources available for support.  

Every effort should be made to communicate a student, faculty or staff death on the day on which it occurs, though it is imperative that the utmost care be taken to ensure that the family of the deceased is not only aware of the death if the death occurred on campus, but is comfortable with our intent to notify the Dartmouth community.

If Dartmouth does not immediately learn of the death or there are circumstances that prevent Dartmouth from communicating the same day it occurs, the notification should go out as soon thereafter as possible. 

The initial notification from the Dean/VP should include the individual's name, title, department, and, in the case of a student, class affiliation. Student death notices should also include an indication of what the student was studying and/or any student organizations in which the student was actively involved. The Dean/VP's message is also where any information on the individual's passions/contributions to the Dartmouth community and/or their field should reside. It should be empathetic and warm in tone and convey a deep sense of loss. 

Importantly, it must also offer condolences to the family and support to community members coping with the loss. It may include specific references to the Dartmouth resources available for this, as appropriate, along with information on any charitable organization(s) designated by the family for donations to be made in memory of the deceased and any memorial services planned.

In every instance, Dartmouth should refrain from including information on the cause of death, with one notable exception: cause of death may be included in the Dartmouth notification if, and only if, it has already been made public in the official obituary prior to the Dartmouth notification going out. It is Dartmouth's position that disclosure of cause of death information rests solely with the family of the deceased. Adopting this policy will eliminate the difficulty of deciding whether or not to include the cause of death given the circumstance, as well as having to explicitly seek permission from the family to include it when their grieving is at its heaviest.  

Responsibility for distribution of the Dean/VP's message, once finalized, resides with the Communications Office of that respective division. Responsibility for posting of the message following the  resides with the Office of the President. VOX notifications regarding the flag lowering, which shall include a link to posting on the In Memoriam page, are handled by EJ Kiefer in Conferences and Events, who is the person who arranges for the flag to be lowered. In every instance, timing shall be coordinated between those three offices and the Office of Communications such that all parties are fully aware of when the initial communication from the Dean/VP will go out, and when the President's message is posted.