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Faculty Council Will Consider Delivering Death Notices Again

By Eugenia V. Levenson, Crimson Staff Writer

A motion to restart the practice of sending official notices informing Faculty members of colleagues' deaths has been submitted to the Faculty Council and will be brought to a vote at next month's meeting.

The sending of black-bordered cards, as the death notices are called, had been a University-wide tradition for more than 100 years. It was orchestrated by the Office of the President until 1998, when the responsibility was ceded to the deans of the individual faculties.

But instead of maintaining the tradition, said Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies Diana L. Eck, Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles "let it lapse."

Eck, who is also the Master of Lowell House, submitted a motion to reinstate black-bordered cards to the Faculty Council after her initial impromptu motion at the April 11 Faculty Meeting failed to gain the required four-fifths majority support.

But whereas the Office of the President intended faculty deans to take responsibility for maintaining the system, Eck said she believes that the Faculty itself, especially individual departments, should take an active role in informing the rest of the body about a department member's death.

"My feeling is that this is a matter of community concern to the Faculty--and of ritual importance," Eck said.

She pointed out that several distinguished members of the Faculty have died in the last two years and that other Faculty members have had to learn the news through newspaper accounts or e-mail messages.

According to Eck, black-bordered cards played an integral role in the Faculty community, not only informing other Faculty members about a colleague's death but also providing information about funeral and memorial service arrangements.

"Rituals are part of creating and sustaining a community...Insofar as we are a community this is an important ritual for us," she said.

Eck said she feels her fellow Faculty members will support the motion. In any case, she said, bringing the issue to the Faculty Council would allow Faculty to voice their opinions on a community tradition that Eck said commemorates deceased Faculty members.

"A passing of a life is not an insignificant matter," Eck said. "These are people who have contributed immensely to the world of which we are all a part."

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