http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2011/07 ... dling.html
This article also appears in today's edition of the local daily that is delivered to my home. As is frequently done with news articles, the newspaper article's title is different from the title of the online article that you have just read. (The newspaper article also has subheadings that are not present in the online article, and it also does not including an entire paragraph and a few extra words in another paragraph that are present in the online article.) Frankly, I prefer the newspaper title ("Victims' complaints lead to scrutiny at Notre Dame") over the other. The reason why is that I sincerely don't believe the administration of Notre Dame is serious about holding the university's football players as individuals accountable for their misconduct off the gridiron. I don't believe they'll live up to their promises. I expect when all of this dies down, they'll go back to business as usual. I wouldn't trust the Notre Dame administration any farther than I'm able to throw a two-ton safe. In my humble opinion, the only way there could even be the possibility of reform on that university campus would be if every single adminstration official who has coddled football players at that university for decades were to resign or be fired, starting with the university's president. The corruption is too deeply rooted for there to be any substantial and meaningful reform. At least that's my opinion.POSTED: Saturday, Jul. 2, 2011
Notre Dame agrees to improve handling of sex assault cases
By TODD LIGHTY AND STACY ST. CLAIR - Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO The University of Notre Dame must improve how it responds to sexual assaults on its campus under an agreement announced Friday with the U.S. Department of Education.
The school -- criticized by some students, parents and victim advocates for how it handled alleged sexual attacks against women last year -- reached the resolution following a seven-month federal investigation into the nation's preeminent Catholic university.
In particular, the women and their families complained that Notre Dame's campus police delayed interviewing suspects for weeks and that months passed before the university resolved cases.
Among the modifications, the nine-page agreement calls on Notre Dame to wrap up administrative reviews within 60 days and to base its ruling of guilt against a suspect on the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, meaning the alleged attack more likely occurred than not, rather than the higher "beyond a reasonable doubt" criminal court threshold.
The education department's investigation began last November after the Chicago Tribune detailed the case of Elizabeth "Lizzy" Seeberg, a Northbrook, Ill., teen who killed herself nine days after accusing a Notre Dame football player of sexual battery. Seeberg's family has raised questions about the campus police department's seeming reluctance to gather evidence, the lack of transparency in the investigation and a 15-day delay in interviewing the accused.
As evidence that it's being more proactive, the Office for Civil Rights opened its inquiry into Notre Dame after the Tribune's story rather than waiting for a formal complaint to be filed, as the office typically has done.
Federal education officials said the Notre Dame matter was the first time in more than 30 years the office launched an investigation through this "direct review" process.
Three other women later came forward and spoke to the Tribune about their frustrations with how Notre Dame responded to their complaints of being sexually attacked on the South Bend, Ind., campus.
Russlynn Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights, said Notre Dame promises to have procedures and practices in place to prevent sexual harassment and violence, to take steps to ensure students are comfortable reporting sexual assaults and to make "climate checks" to ensure that students feel safe.
"The university recognizes that we have some concerns. They came to the table to resolve those concerns," Ali said.
Notre Dame officials have not commented on the report yet.
Under the resolution agreement, Notre Dame promises to change its policies and procedures on sexual assaults and harassment. Besides speeding up the process and using the preponderance of the evidence standard in making a finding, the university agreed to:
- Make it clearer to alleged victims that they can pursue their case criminally, pursue it through the internal student disciplinary process, or both.
- Obtain written acknowledgments from alleged victims detailing whether they want the case to proceed.
- Notify the alleged victim, in writing, if the local prosecutor declines to press charges.
- Amend its policies to allow alleged victims the option of not being present in the same room as the suspect during student disciplinary hearings.
- Give the alleged victim the right to appeal a disciplinary finding based on a major procedural defect or the discovery of new evidence that could have affected the outcome.
Ali said Notre Dame administrators have promised to continue working with her office going forward. In fact, the agreement calls on Notre Dame to file periodic progress reports with the education department.
The department's investigation included campus visits, interviews with university officials and administrators from nearby St. Mary's College, an extensive review of the university's written policies and procedures, and examination of files relating to sexual harassment cases.
The agreement ends the education department's investigation and allows the university to avoid a potential finding of fault. The resolution was signed by Debbie Osgood, director of the department's Chicago office, and the Rev. Thomas Doyle, the school's vice president of student affairs.
The agreement was signed Thursday and released Friday, before the long holiday weekend.
Though the resolution does not specifically mention the Seeberg case, it addresses many of the concerns the family had, including the pressure Lizzy Seeberg felt after she received a text message from the player's friend warning her against "messing with Notre Dame football."
The new agreement prohibits the accused and other third parties from communicating perceived threats. It also requires the university to issue no-contact orders to all parties in alleged sexual assaults, including witnesses.
The prosecutor in the Seeberg case declined to file charges on the alleged battery or the text message case. The school has refused to tell her parents if either was punished internally.
I'll have a lot more to say about this later.