A University of Notre Dame football player who allegedly sexually assaulted a young woman who later killed herself has been cleared of wrongdoing by a university disciplinary hearing.
Elizabeth "Lizzy" Seeberg, a 19-year-old Northbrook, Ill. native who was a student at St. Mary's College, died of a suspected drug overdose on Sept. 10, 2010, little more than a week after she initiated a formal complaint against a male student-athlete which alleged unwanted sexual contact, per an AP report.
Joseph A. Power Jr., a Chicago attorney representing the athlete accused of the assault, issued a letter published by the South Bend Tribune Thursday stating that his client "did nothing wrong. We said that from day one." A university hearing completed in February of this year concluded that the student was not found responsible for violating the university's sexual misconduct policy and, as a result, no disciplinary action was taken. St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak previously declined to charge the athlete.
Seeberg's parents, Tom and Mary, issued a statement calling the recent news "not at all surprising." They say the South Bend, Ind. Catholic university's investigation into their daughter's complaint was "wholly inadequate."
"It was too little, too late to ever get to the truth," the Seebergs said. "That is the conclusion shared by the federal government in its report this summer. Given that there was no adequate investigation, it is not at all surprising that the school’s “hearing” process exonerated the accused student. What other conclusion could they reach? Notre Dame’s process did not have credibility. Nor does the result."
Earlier this year, The Huffington Post looked into the disciplinary hearings offered at Midwestern schools including Notre Dame. Programs like these provide another option for survivors of sexual assault to report the crime, but some anti-sexual violence advocates criticize the programs when they are not coordinated closely with local law enforcement.
In April, the Obama administration called on campuses across the country to take allegations of sexual assault more seriously by cracking down on perpetrators. Following that directive, in addition to a seven-month federal investigation into how the university handled sexual assault complaints, Notre Dame administration changed their procedures on the issue.
Photo by JMRosenfeld via Flickr.