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When students die, Ohio State offers assistance

When an Ohio State student dies, friends and family often don’t know what to do. That’s where representatives from the OSU Student Advocacy Center come in.
Student Life’s Student Advocacy Center acts as the university liaison between OSU and the student’s family and friends when a student dies.
So far during the 2012 academic year there have been three student deaths, said Karen Kyle, director of the OSU Student Advocacy Center.
Eighteen deaths occurred during the 2008-2009 school year, a number that was matched in the 2010-2011 school year. There were 16 student deaths during the 2011-2012 academic year, Kyle said.
Once Student Advocacy hears of a death, representatives wait a day or two before reaching out to relatives to ensure that authorities have contacted the family already, Kyle said.
The center aims to ensure that any university-related questions are answered and the stress of academic finances is alleviated. It works with the University Bursar and Office of Student Financial Aid to close out any accrued debt and wipe out outstanding finances.
“We apply university grants to those things,” Kyle said. The center also works with the U.S. government to close out any outstanding loans.
“Anything families are worried about OSU-related, we are the one-stop shop,” Kyle said.
Student Advocacy also works with friends and roommates during the time of crisis following a death.
“We work to identify impacted students,” Kyle said. This is done by looking at records and examining where the student lived, if they were in the Honors or Scholars programs or if they were an athlete.
Once Student Advocacy identifies those who might have been impacted by the loss, representatives work with them individually or as a group to get the help that would be most beneficial.
“(Student Advocacy will offer) definite immediate, urgent counseling if that is something that would be helpful to them,” Kyle said.
Student Advocacy alerts the director of counseling to make room in the schedule for students in the office, or to schedule a meeting at a student’s dorm, house or apartment to accommodate groups if needed. Kyle said the counselors help students to process feelings and understand what resources exist.
If a student who died lived with a roommate either off campus or in the residence halls, Kyle said the department makes sure to reach out to them.
If a student is in a residence hall, Kyle said Student Advocacy will work with OSU Residences and Dining Services and the roommate in the event that the roommate wants to change rooms. If a student is off campus, Kyle said Student Advoacy works with landlords and tries to collaborate so another roommate isn’t left solely responsible for the entirety of the rent.
Some students said they believe dealing with the death of a roommate should be discussed more so if the event happened, they would know where to turn.
“They should advertise more,” said Lindsay McCarthy, a third-year in human resources. “If my roommate died, I wouldn’t know what to do.”
McCarthy has heard that roommates in the dorms received help, but she doesn’t know about the help provided to off-campus students. She also said covering the student’s debt would be a big help.
“Covering the debt is really good. If your kid dies, their parent isn’t going to want to pay their debt,” McCarthy said.
Student Advocacy also helps individuals and groups plan memorial services for friends. Kyle said they don’t do this for every student, but if Student Advocacy is approached, this is an option.
Kyle said the university holds an annual memorial service each spring to honor and remember all students who have died the year before. She said the event is multi-cultural and the community is invited.
“We particularly seek out those we know were impacted (to attend),” Kyle said.

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