Requires the SUNY and CUNY boards of trustees and boards of trustees of community colleges to establish a policy for the awarding of posthumous degrees; requires such policy to waive any remaining credits for enrolled matriculated students who die and would otherwise have been eligible for graduation had they been able to complete their academic career.
NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A4942B
TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the education law, in relation to establishing policies
for the awarding of posthumous degrees
PURPOSE: OR GENERAL IDEA OF THE BILL:
The purpose of this bill is to require SUNY and CUNY to establish a
policy authorizing each system's institutions to grant posthumous
degrees to enrolled matriculated students whose death occurs prior to
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS::
Section 1 sets the title of the legislation as "Mel's Law"
Section 2 amends Subdivision 2 of section 355 of the education law by
requiring the SUNY board of trustees to establish a policy authorizing
state-operated colleges and community colleges to grant posthumous
degrees to enrolled matriculated students whose death occurred prior to
Section 3 amends Section 6206 of the education law by requiring the CUNY
board of trustees to establish a policy authorizing senior colleges and
community colleges to grant posthumous degrees to enrolled matriculated
students whose death occurred prior to graduation.
Section 4 states that these degrees will not affect an institution's
standing or its evaluation process for accreditation.
Section 5 provides for an immediate effective date.
We are living in a time when death among college students is at an all-
time high. Several of the leading causes of death for this population in
the United States has continued to rise, especially with the continua-
tion of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some leading causes are suicide, acci-
dents (vehicular, drug/alcohol-related, and other), homicide, and
cancer. Most of these issues can be exacerbated by the environment that
is uniquely that of a college campus. Excessive drinking, experimenta-
tion with illicit substances, high pressure, and isolation have all been
reported as common experiences on college campuses. These experiences,
coupled with the COVID-l9 pandemic help us to understand why the mortal-
ity rate among this group continues to rise.
When a student dies before graduating from the State University of New
York or the City University of New York, they are not automatically
entitled to formal recognition of their academic efforts or achieve-
ments. For many families, this can be devastating; in addition to losing
a loved one, they are missing a sense of closure for the work, money,
and time that was put into their higher education. This is especially
true for first-generation college students.
The State University of New York (SUNY) currently has no system-wide
policy on eligibility for posthumous degrees. This has left room for
many of the individual schools to implement their own policies regarding
the topic. Because these policies are not uniform across the system, the
wording and credit requirements vary from school to school.
The City University of New York (CUNY) does have a system-wide policy on
eligibility for posthumous degrees. However, this policy leaves out
students who have completed fewer than 45 credit hours. This leaves
students' families without a tangible piece of evidence of their loved
one's efforts in higher education.
There is no reason to believe these degrees impact the formal standing
of a university as accreditation does not consider how many posthumous
degrees are given out in the evaluation. The recognition of a student's
time and effort is essential to their loved ones. This type of formal
recognition can bring a sense of closure and healing to those close to
the student. It provides a compassionate close to the student's academic
career. The presentation of a posthumous degree can bring some joy to
the student's family, friends, and the campus community during a time of
unimaginable grieving and loss, and can be a stepping stone for the
family to find closure.
The passage of this bill would help families like that of Brooklyn resi-
dent Melquain Jatelle-Anderson, who was tragically shot and killed at a
bus stop in 2017 while enrolled at a City University of New York. While
his family did receive recognition of his efforts, there was no policy
in place to allow the awarding of a posthumous degree given his circum-
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY::
STATE OF NEW YORK
2023-2024 Regular Sessions
February 27, 2023
Introduced by M. of A. FORREST, TAYLOR, DARLING, HYNDMAN, LEVENBERG,
SILLITTI, MAHER, SIMON, RAGA, OTIS, McDONALD, CHANDLER-WATERMAN,
CLARK, PRETLOW, DE LOS SANTOS, TAPIA, ALVAREZ, GIBBS, REYES, SEPTIMO,
EPSTEIN, WEPRIN, ZACCARO, STIRPE, MAMDANI, SHRESTHA -- read once and
referred to the Committee on Higher Education -- committee discharged,
bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said
committee -- committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as
amended and recommitted to said committee
AN ACT to amend the education law, in relation to establishing policies
for the awarding of posthumous degrees
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-bly, do enact as follows:
1 Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as "Melquain
2 Jatelle Anderson's (Mel's) Law".
3 § 2. Subdivision 2 of section 355 of the education law is amended by
4 adding a new paragraph f-2 to read as follows:
5 f-2. Notwithstanding any law, rule or regulation to the contrary, the
6 state university of New York board of trustees shall establish a policy
7 authorizing state-operated institutions and community colleges within
8 the state university to grant posthumous degrees to enrolled matriculat-
9 ed students whose death occurs prior to graduation. Such policy shall
10 provide that, upon terms set in the policy, any remaining credit
11 requirements shall be waived for any student who dies and who otherwise
12 would have been eligible for graduation had they been able to complete
13 their academic career.
14 § 3. Section 6206 of the education law is amended by adding a new
15 subdivision 22 to read as follows:
16 22. Notwithstanding any law, rule or regulation to the contrary, the
17 board of trustees shall establish a policy authorizing senior colleges
18 and community colleges within the city university of New York to grant
19 posthumous degrees to enrolled matriculated students whose death occurs
EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
 is old law to be omitted.
A. 4942--B 2
1 prior to graduation. Such policy shall provide that, upon terms set in
2 the policy, any remaining credit requirements shall be waived for any
3 student who dies and who otherwise would have been eligible for gradu-
4 ation had they been able to complete their academic career.
5 § 4. Such posthumous degrees shall not be counted in the conferred
6 degrees during the accreditation process or negatively impact a school's
7 standing during the accreditation process.
8 § 5. This act shall take effect immediately.