Missing Person Policy and Procedure


This policy is intended to establish formal notification procedures for students who reside in Mount Holyoke Student housing and are reported as missing, as required by the Higher Education Act as amended by the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), effective October 1, 2010.

Missing Student

A student is considered missing when Mount Holyoke Public Safety & Service has determined the student to be missing. Concerns that may give rise to a missing student investigation may consist of but are not limited to:

  • Medical or health related problems;
  • The student has not regularly attended classes and has not been seen elsewhere;
  • A Mount Holyoke official has made an inquiry of concern;
  • A parent, roommate, or suitemate of the student has reported such disappearance due to irregular contact with the student;
  • Residential Life staff believes that a student may be missing based upon absence from the residence or other information received by staff.

While an unexplainable absence of more than 24 hours gives rise to heightened concern, a student may be determined to be missing even if the student has been absent from the campus for a period of less than 24 hours.

Policy Regarding Contact Persons

Each student living in student housing has the option to identify an individual to be contacted by the university no later than 24 hours after the time that the student is determined missing.

Only authorized campus officials and law enforcement officers, acting in furtherance of a missing person investigation, may have access to missing student contact person information.

Students residing in on-campus housing or affiliated properties will be notified that their emergency contact information will also serve as their missing student contact information, unless the student directs otherwise.

If a student is less than 18 years of age and not emancipated, their custodial parent or guardian will be called in addition to the emergency contact(s).

*Contact is contingent upon the correct emergency or missing student contact information being made available by the student.

Actions to be Taken When A Student Is Or May Be Missing

If a student is suspected of being missing, then the reporting party will typically first notify Residential Life or Division of Student Life staff.

Staff that receives a report that a student is or may be missing, or who suspects that a student is missing, will initiate the missing student notification protocol, which includes an attempt to gather information regarding the student’s current whereabouts. Staff will also immediately contact Public Safety and Service for consultation and to convey any report staff has received that a student is missing.

If staff cannot immediately locate the student suspected of being missing, then staff will also report the suspicion that the student is missing to appropriate administrators and to the key campus partners.

Public Safety and Service will actively conduct an investigation to determine the status of any student reported to be missing or suspected of being missing. The investigation will be conducted pursuant to established police procedures. Public Safety and Service will provide relevant updates to the reporting staff and key campus partners. Steps taken to find a student may include:

  • Gathering all essential information about the person (description, clothes last worn, where subject might be, with whom they might be, vehicle description, etc.) and every effort will be made to make contact directly with the student or their designated contact(s).
  • An up to date photograph may also be obtained to aid in the search.
  • Information about the physical and mental well-being of the individual will be obtained.
  • Appropriate campus staff will be notified to aid in the search for the individual.

Notifying and working with other law enforcement agencies

A thorough search of all campus buildings, grounds, and parking lots may be conducted. Class schedules will be obtained and a search of appropriate classrooms will be conducted. If Public Safety and Service makes a determination that the student has been missing for more than 24 hours, then the College must notify the missing student contact of this determination. If such a missing student is less than 18 years of age and not emancipated, then the parent(s)/guardian of the missing student must also be notified. The College may notify the missing student contact if the student has been determined by Public Safety and Service to be missing for a period of time less than 24 hours if circumstances warrant.

Follow up

When the student is found, professional staff will contact the student and inform them of support services available on campus. In certain situations, Residential Life staff may consult with the Vice President of Student Life/Dean of Students office to determine if additional follow up is needed. This support should also be offered to any other students (e.g. roommates, friends) affected by the incident.

If the search for the missing student is deemed unsuccessful, the Vice President of Student Life/Dean of Students and other Division of Student Life staff members, will decide what further action(s) should be taken.

Mount Holyoke College policies are subject to revision without notice.