Colorado State traditions, services honor lost members of the community

The term “Ramily” is used to describe the sense of community students share here at CSU. We are a family, and as a family, CSU grieves when we lose a fellow student.

The support network at CSU is extensive when a student is prematurely lost. From ASCSU to the Safety Assessment Department, CSU offers services and memorials to honor the loss of a community member.

According to Jody Donovan, the dean of students, families are given as much support as possible to facilitate the loss of a loved one.

Counseling services are extended to direct family members, and the process of packing up possessions is organized by CSU.

“We try really hard to take care of all those things that can get in the way of the grief process for the family so they can focus on themselves, each other, and their loved one,” Donovan wrote in an email to the Collegian.

If the student is a freshman, the family is no longer responsible for the cost of housing and dining. Donovan and her team also work to remove student costs and fees, one-by-one when necessary.

According to Donovan, tuition returns vary depending on what is legal with scholarships and loans. However, CSU tries to return as much money as possible to the family.

If the student lived in a dorm, the roommate(s) are given the option to move out or stay in the same dorm room. These students are given special support and leniency during the grieving process.

Although some school years are free of these sorts of tragedies, other years are harder.

According to Ashley Vigil, Program Coordinator in the Support and Safety Assessment Department, there have been four deaths of CSU students this semester in addition to the widely known death of Joseph Philpott, who died in an avalanche in early March.

The knowledge of these incidents is limited, often in respect of family wishes.

CSU works to close out all existing files to prevent small things from cropping up and reminding the family.

“The main reason for that kind of service is so the family isn’t inundated with mailings and calls and things like that (from the university),” Vigil said.

Students who pass away in their final semester may also receive a Posthumous Degree in recognition of their achievements.  This is awarded to the family at Commencement.

Students at ASCSU started one of the more meaningful traditions to honor fallen peers. When a member of the Ram family is lost, a flag is lowered to half-mast for three days.

After three days, it is sent to the family of the deceased student with a handwritten letter from ASCSU.

“There have been quite a few times we’ve had to lower the flag this year,” said Regina Martel, the current president of ASCSU.

Martel drafted a memorandum to show the importance of this specific tradition and has strengthened it in the process.

“I tried to show that there was a reason we do it,” Martel said. “We are trying to help the grieving process in any way we can.”

“Families are deeply touched by this tradition.  Some flags have been draped over the caskets or displayed at memorial services, some flags have been buried with the student, and other flags are proudly displayed in the family members’ homes,” Donovan wrote in an email to the Collegian. 

“It’s (a tradition) that is not up for discussion,” Vigil said.

At CSU, we are Ramily.

Collegian Staff Writer Mariah Wenzel can be reached at news@collegian.com.