Ole Miss sent an email to donors on Tuesday — in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic — asking them to consider adding the university to their wills.
The email, which came from the Ole Miss Office of Development, started circulating on Twitter from user @inessentials. That account's tweets have since become protected. The media from said tweet was later screengrabbed and further shared on Twitter:
COVID-19 UPDATES: Every sporting event canceled, postponed so far
The email reads:
"There is a common expression that 'change is the only constant in life.' We often experience this with our careers, our residences and even our families. Sometimes situations change around us, and developments in our health, laws and/or the financial landscape present new challenges.
In those times, it is beneficial to consider revisiting the content of your will, especially if it was designed years ago and now needs attention. Just like your home, your estate plan needs regular maintenance to reflect situations and circumstances you've faced.
By adding a bequest in your will, you guarantee that the priorities in your life are matched to your legacy. Also, by expressing the philanthropic priorities of your life, you can continue investing in the students, faculty, mission and values of the University of Mississippi.
A bequest included as a provision in your will is the simplest, most efficient way to distribute your estate. If providing future generations with educational ... (sic)."
Although the email never mentions coronavirus or COVID-19, it can easily be interpreted as asking donors to add the university to their respective wills in the event they die as a result of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest tally lists 44,183 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 544 resulting deaths in the U.S.
Ole Miss' Department of Development has since released a statement saying the "message was a previously scheduled newsletter focused on providing guidance for planned giving," but acknowledged "the delivery of this message at this time was insensitive in the current climate."
Ole Miss' statement can be read in full below:
"We deeply apologize for a University Development email sent Tuesday morning dealing with estate-planning information. This message was a previously scheduled newsletter focused on providing guidance for planned giving. However, the delivery of this message at this time was insensitive in the current climate. We have adjusted our communication protocols to align them with the emergency situation facing our university and nation, and we are sorry for the distress that this message caused. We hope everyone in our university community is focusing on doing everything possible to stay safe in the current climate."