Feds review how Notre Dame handles assault claims
The U.S. Department of Education is reviewing how the University
of Notre Dame handles allegations of sexual assault in the wake of
a student from a neighboring women’s college who reportedly accused
a Notre Dame football player of sexual battery and later committed
The inquiry is looking broadly at the university’s policies,
procedures and responses to complaints of alleged sexual
harassment, department spokesman Jim Bradshaw said Friday.
University spokesman Dennis Brown said the school is cooperating
and noted that the review is not related to any particular
The school has come under criticism from the family of
19-year-old Elizabeth Seeberg, a St. Mary’s College student who
died of a suspected drug overdose Sept. 10. Authorities said
Seeberg accused a student-athlete of touching her breasts on Aug.
The president of the university has said campus police conducted
a thorough investigation, but her family said the school’s
investigation was superficial. They also questioned why a timeline
they received from Notre Dame shows it took police two weeks to
interview the football player their daughter accused.
St. Joseph County Prosecutor Mike Dvorak decided not to pursue
charges, saying there were conflicting witness accounts and some of
Seeberg’s statements would likely be inadmissible in court.
The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that the family of another
woman who attended St. Mary’s was upset at how Notre Dame had
handled their daughter’s report that she was sexually attacked in a
residence hall on Sept. 5. Authorities said the woman initially did
not want to press charges, which the Tribune said she denies.
That woman’s family also questioned why it took four days after
she and her parents met with Notre Dame police Sept. 11 and told
them she wanted to press charges before police tried to locate the
accused student, then didn’t question him until the next day.
Dvorak informed the family Monday that he would not be
prosecuting the case, saying there wasn’t enough evidence. He said
the speed in which campus police investigated the case didn’t play
a role in the decision. He said some statements by friends of the
St. Mary’s students didn’t match what she told police.
Dvorak said the fact that Notre Dame police waited to hear back
from the student before investigating wasn’t unusual.
”The protocol says you don’t compel the complaining witness to
prosecute,” he said. ”They did what was reasonable. They waited
for her to get back to them.”
He said he did have a ”small concern” that it took police four
days to try to talk to the Notre Dame student after the St. Mary’s
student decided to press charges. But he said he has confidence in
how the department handles sexual assault cases.
”There’s nothing they did or didn’t do that jeopardized our
prosecution,” he said.
Notre Dame said in a news release that it takes seriously its
obligation to thoroughly investigate every allegation of sexual
”We regret that some are critical of our handling of sexual
misconduct allegations, and we understand the pain these families
are experiencing,” the university said in its statement. ”At the
same time, we stand behind the thoroughness, integrity and
objectivity of our investigations, as well as the comprehensive
services available to students who are subjected to sexual