Senators discuss requirements for posthumous degrees

Senators debated qualifications for a student to receive a posthumous undergraduate degree during the first reading of a proposed policy change at the Oct. 18 Faculty Senate meeting.

History associate professor Brian Behnken asked to further amend proposed changes and remove a credit requirement, and president-elect Sarah Bennett-George followed by amending the original amendment to also remove a GPA requirement.

"Speaking as a parent of a deceased child, once our children are gone, there is very little left to memorialize them or remember them," Behnken said. "This is a nice thing and something Iowa State can do for its students, the parents and family that costs us nothing. It is a degree that will never go on a CV or a resumè, but for those families it will hang on the wall and be a reminder of the student's accomplishments."

Senators unanimously approved the amendment to remove both requirements from the updated policy to ensure enrolled students would be eligible for a posthumous degree.

A proposed change to the policy would have required the deceased student to be in good academic standing with at least a 2.0 GPA and at least 32 credits completed at the university.

Anthony Townsend, information systems and business analytics associate professor, was part of the committee that drafted the new policy, and said he didn't recall any academic standards required in the original draft. He said the committee's intention was to "make it extremely easy to have a posthumous degree available to the family of deceased students." The student's college would make the recommendation for the posthumous degree, and the provost's office would make the final decision.

Senators will vote on the amended policy after its second reading at the November meeting.


Senators approved a change to the Faculty Handbook on who may file appeals, removing "constitutional rights" from the options for grounds for an appeal. Faculty serving on investigative committees have been reluctant to deal with constitutional rights violations because it is a legal question outside the senate's scope.

New business

Senators will vote at the November meeting on:

  • The proposed discontinuation of the Latin undergraduate and graduate minors in the world languages and cultures department. Due to insufficient student demand, the required 400-level course has not been taught since spring 2012, when the last students graduated with the minor.
  • A new minor in Spanish translation and interpretation studies in the world languages and cultures department. The proposed 15-credit minor would be a first for the regent universities. The minor focuses on developing analytical skills, linguistic competence, cultural literacy and knowledge of cultures in the Spanish-speaking world. 
  • A new interdisciplinary bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering, based primarily in the chemical and biological engineering department. Graduates would be prepared to address health care challenges in injury prevention and recovery, neurodegenerative disorders and antibiotic resistance, and to improve personal protective equipment. Nationally, the biomedical engineering major graduates the second highest percentage (48.1%) of female students among engineering majors. Currently, about 18% of ISU engineering bachelor's degree recipients are women. Before the final reading, more discussion will occur among departments involved in the proposal to ensure the right courses are included for the degree.
  • A proposed change that removes a limit on the number of courses undergraduate students can drop. The current limit is five, but over the past 12 academic years, students averaged fewer than two drops in their career. Additionally, no other regent or Big 12 Conference university has a drop limit, and a drop policy would be difficult to administer in Workday. 
  • An updated Faculty Handbook reviewed by a task force for consistency across sections and chapters while avoiding any substantive changes. Their changes addressed inconsistencies of reference, style and completeness. The task force of five former Faculty Senate presidents spent 16 months reviewing the handbook and updating the style guide. The updated Faculty Handbook was moved from the consent agenda to new business to allow faculty more time to review all changes.

Other business

Senators sent a policy revision in the Faculty Handbook for nondisciplinary corrective action related to faculty misconduct back to the executive board for more discussion.