In the wake of a damning Chicago Tribune article on the events surrounding a student's suicide after an alleged sexual assault by a Notre Dame football player, the school has made an official statement in an apparent effort to explain its silence.
Lizzy Seeberg, 19, a student at the neighboring St. Mary's College, overdosed on prescription medication in September. In the days after the alleged sexual assault occurred, she was harassed by a Notre Dame football player and received little to no support from the university, according to the Tribune. No charges will be filed against the player suspected in the assault.
In response to the Tribune's article, Notre Dame's Vice President of Communications Janet Botz wrote to the university community that because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the school could not discuss any disciplinary cases. She continued:
However, I want to point out that any time the University investigates any potential student violation of the law or university policies, we do so professionally, carefully and thoroughly. We also recognize that when a family is grieving for a lost child, procedures that are thorough and careful may be perceived as insufficient. The Seebergs have been and continue to be in our prayers.
According to WGN, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly said it was "good to get some clarity in the process."
"One of my jobs as the head football coach, as I tell our players, is to eliminate confusion," he said. "The prosecutor's statement, at least from what I was able to glean, clears up some of that. That's probably what I took from it more than anything else."
Read Botz's statement in full below.
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,
As you may have heard or seen, the Chicago Tribune has published another story today concerning the allegations made against a Notre Dame student by Saint Mary's College student Lizzy Seeberg prior to her death in September.
Let me state first that sexual violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Notre Dame. We have a wide array of sexual assault education and prevention programs in place and will continue to actively promote these initiatives on our campus.
There is a law known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that prohibits universities from publicly discussing specific disciplinary cases. However, I want to point out that any time the University investigates any potential student violation of the law or university policies, we do so professionally, carefully and thoroughly. We also recognize that when a family is grieving for a lost child, procedures that are thorough and careful may be perceived as insufficient. The Seebergs have been and continue to be in our prayers.
At all times, our procedures are judicious and intended to ensure the guilty receive proper punishment. At the same time, in cases where there is no evidence to support disciplinary action, our process guards the innocent from unsubstantiated accusations. We cannot and will not change our careful and thorough processes to conform to individual wishes or external pressures. As most of you know, Notre Dame has never backed away from these practices in the past - and never will. We take this obligation very seriously.
In addition, the St. Joseph County prosecutor said in a November 22, 2010, statement that Notre Dame's Security Police Department has "in the past taken care to conduct thorough investigations of criminal allegations, and have compiled complete reports of their findings, forwarded to this office."
In all matters, Notre Dame will continue to act with the utmost professionalism and we will pursue matters wherever the facts lead. As you read stories about any matter that involves our process, I again ask you not to arrive at any premature conclusions. In any potentially criminal matter, outside agencies, including the prosecutor's office, have all the information and all the facts to make informed decisions.
Janet M. Botz
Office of Public Affairs and Communications