Requires the SUNY and CUNY boards of trustees to establish a policy for the awarding of posthumous degrees; requires such policy to waive any remaining credits for students who are killed 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: A4942
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:
This bill intends to authorize posthumous degrees to students who have
been killed while enrolled in a state or city university of New York.
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
authorizing posthumous degrees to students who died before they could
graduate from a state university of New York.
Section 3 amends Section 6206 of the education law by authorizing
posthumous degrees to students who died before they could graduate from
a city university of New York.
Section 4 states that these degrees will not affect an institution's
standing or its evaluation process for accreditation.
Section 5 is 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-19 pandemic help us to understand why the mortal-
ity rate among this group continues to rise.
When a student dies before graduating from a state or city university in
New York, they are not automatically entitled to formal recognition of
their academic efforts or achievements. 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
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 students academic
career. The presentation of a posthumous degree can bring some joy to
the students family, friends, and the campus community during a time of
unimaginable grieving and loss.
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-
stances. Granting posthumous degrees to all students who die while
enrolled in higher education can be a stepping stone for the family to
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
STATE OF NEW YORK
2023-2024 Regular Sessions
February 27, 2023
Introduced by M. of A. FORREST -- read once and referred to the Commit-
tee on Higher Education
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 within the state university
8 system to grant posthumous degrees to students whose death occurs prior
9 to graduation. Such policy shall provide that any remaining credit
10 requirements shall be waived for any student who is killed and who
11 otherwise would have been eligible for graduation had they been able to
12 complete their academic career.
13 § 3. Section 6206 of the education law is amended by adding a new
14 subdivision 22 to read as follows:
15 22. Notwithstanding any law, rule or regulation to the contrary, the
16 board of trustees shall establish a policy authorizing institutions
17 within the city university of New York system to grant posthumous
18 degrees to students whose death occurs prior to graduation. Such policy
19 shall provide that any remaining credit requirements shall be waived for
20 any student who is killed and who otherwise would have been eligible for
21 graduation had they been able to complete their academic career.
22 § 4. Such posthumous degrees shall not be counted in the conferred
23 degrees during the accreditation process or negatively impact a school's
24 standing during the accreditation process.
25 § 5. This act shall take effect immediately.
EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
 is old law to be omitted.