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SHSU senior dies months before graduation

Associate Editor

Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 23:01

Sam Houston State University is mourning the loss of yet another Bearkat this semester.

Senior Andrew Polk, 23, died in Spring, Texas, on Jan. 9, according to Dean of Students John Yarabeck. The criminal justice major began attending SHSU in 2009 and was set to graduate in May.

Polk’s death came almost a month after three students died in a drunk-driving accident on campus in December 2013.

Although Polk’s death wasn’t released by the university, Yarabeck said since Polk’s death was over the break and far from campus, it didn’t need the publicity or university involvement like that of December’s fatal crash.

“In this case, Polk is a good example of the other end of the spectrum,” Yarabeck said. “It happened over a break period. When we were notified, [Polk] had already had his funeral and viewing, because often it’s the parents, spouses, girlfriends who let the university know. When something like that happens, family members often don’t think about contacting the university.”

A formal protocol for interuniversity communication doesn’t exist, but Yarabeck said an informal notification system has been in place since he became dean of students eight years ago. Included on the list of university officials notified of a student death are the university president, registrar and student body president.

Student Government Association passed Senate Resolution S14-02 in memory of Polk Tuesday.

“When the life a fellow Bearkat comes to an untimely end, it brings great sadness and serves as an emotional blow to the student body, faculty and staff of the university,” the resolution stated. “Our university will deeply miss the company and fellowship of our fellow Bearkat Andrew Polk.”

When looking into the lives of those who survive those who die, Yarabeck said the main concern of university is the safety of its students. The university has in place a Crisis Management Team that addresses and assesses the emotional impact an event has on campus and then acts accordingly.

“The counseling center does have hours set aside each day for students who are in crisis,” Yarabeck said. “This particular scenario, [students] are probably not in crisis at that moment. They might feel depressed, they might lose sleep and they might have a hard time concentrating because they’re missing their friend.” 

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