OT: Notre Dame feeling the heat with more controversy

Submitted by oriental andrew on November 22nd, 2010 at 11:47 AM

We all know about the mishap which resulted in the death of Declan Sullivan, who was filming the ND practice on a scissor lift in very windy conditions, and how the AD came out and basically denied that wind was a factor until the one gust which caused the accident. 


Well, a female student - Elizabeth Seeberg - at nearby St. Mary's College committed suicide in September.  She was a freshman at St. Mary's and was from Northbrook, IL, about 20 minutes from where I live.  Apparently, she had filed a report with Notre Dame campus police that a Notre Dame football player sexually assaulted her on 8/31. 


From the article linked above:

Elizabeth "Lizzy" Seeberg, a freshman at neighboring St. Mary's College who had battled depression, apparently overdosed on prescription medication in her own room during the third week of classes in September. The player, meanwhile, has remained on the field.

More than two months later, Notre Dame refuses to publicly acknowledge the case, and what actions university officials have taken to investigate her allegation remain largely unknown.


According to the editorial linked above:

It's time for transparency, a foreign concept on Notre Dame's campus.

No matter what Notre Dame knows about the details in its own police report, officials owe the Seebergs that much. If the family was satisfied with Notre Dame's investigation, it wouldn't have hired Zachary Fardon, the lawyer who took down former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, to dig for the truth.

I don't know what is going on on that campus, but it ain't pretty.  These stories strike particularly close to home for me as a parent and as a local resident (Declan Sullivan's family lives in my town and the Seebergs are just 20 min away).

And for the record, ND Nation has put up a notice that discussion is not allowed on the topic because there is no first-hand knowledge, that they are "not in a position to assess the sufficiency of the investigation, and therefore take no position regarding the sufficiency of the investigation." Ironically, this follows a statement that they believe ND was investigating and taking the complaint seriously.  Talk about of both sides of your mouth much? 



November 22nd, 2010 at 11:53 AM ^

The previous were taken down because it just became pot shots at "Brian Kelly is a douche." This is a serious accusation. It shouldn't be treated so lightly.

And, it's a serious enough of a non-football story that I'm not sure the board, or more likely, the internet in general, is above degrading the issue below intelligent thought.

Read. Think. We're probably best off not discussing the ideas behind it here.

oriental andrew

November 22nd, 2010 at 12:01 PM ^

I didn't realize there were posts taken down about the topic because, well, they've been taken down.  Also, this is precisely why I didn't talk about Brian Kelly in my post.  His actions are less germane than the actions of the ND administration, in general.  I do feel their AD, Swarbrick, has a lot to answer for.

If you feel it's too off-topic or get's too far afield of a rational discussion (with said pot shots), feel free to take it down.  I won't get my feelings hurt.  


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:30 AM ^

This is a very, very slippery slope this blog has begun to slide on.  I am a frequent reader of the blog but seldom do I post.  Recently I have begun to pay a great deal of attention to this censorship issue.  I don't like it one bit.  How does it affect me and the site?  I have read comments from frequent posters saying 'I'll go elsewhere to discuss it.'  I vote too with my dollars (or in this case, eyes, or keystrokes); I too will go elsewhere.

So I have been reading the excised thread and I am stunned by the amount of rules.  This isn't particularly a news site.  The primary reason I read it is to read comments--all comments.  Some are funny, outlandish, crass, whatever.  Personally, I think they are too dire, but there were threads after the Penn State game, and again after Wisconsin, all yanked.  I enjoy reading what EVERYONE has to say.  I saw that someone had the audacity to post something about international soccer; bang, removed.  Yes, over-the-top things should be edited, but I think this direction has gone too far.  I am a marketing, and in particular, customer satisfaction expert; in my professional opinion, this site is properly defining what its role is and who its audience is and is going to suffer from this miscalculation.

This is probably the most glaring example of what I have seen.  'This is a serious matter so no douche comments.'  As far as I can tell, Kelly's actions are out of line.  Again, as a marketer, he has a real perception problem and the examples (e.g., player treatment, the scissor lift, now this) are mounting.  The university too has mishandled, at the very least, the public relations.  It is real and this blog's attempts to censor it, I believe, are wrong.

Finally, if this blog is so intent on such intrusiveness into the behavior of its participants (customers as well as content providers), why not be at least a little cognizant of copyright violations?  I see the following frequently:  Are you not aware that content from the Chicago Tribune is copyrighted and may not be posted without written permission?  This is a for-profit website.  Why isn't this excised?

I really think you are toying with the loyalty of (at least some of) your users.  Do you really know your audience?


P.S.  I'll put this on my blog (www.peterpfeiffer.co.cc) as I hope to do a little more with this issue in the future.  Also, I'll explore it with a few other U-M blogs.  I'm curious if this too will be deleted!


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:46 AM ^

Just what slippery slope are you referring to?  This is Brian's site; he can moderate any way he wants.  This is a site dedicated to Michigan athletics and it is no longer the off season, therefore, it is both understandable and appreciated that Brian attempts to limit board posts to discussion of Michigan and Michigan athletics.  I am a loyal reader of this site because Brian does his best to keep its content on-topic and high-quality, and I am sure that most others feel this way, too.  There are many other websites on which you can read comments that have nothing to do with Michigan athletics if you are so unhappy with the content of this site. 

In response to your copyright comment, quoting three sentences and including a link to the source sounds a lot like fair use, in my e-pinion.

In conclusion, Brian knows his audience, it's composed if Michigan fans, therefore he limits the content to things related to Michigan.  The "M" in MGoBlog refers to Michigan, remember?


November 22nd, 2010 at 12:02 PM ^

yea truly, we should be happy that under RR, the only thing we had to worry about was getting past the NCAA stuff, and now just continuing to win more games every year.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:41 PM ^

This is indeed a very serious allegation. However, we'd be well to keep the following in mind:

1. Just like the wind incident, it is very doubtful Brian Kelly himself has done anything wrong. He has deferred to the university's due process. It would be inappropriate for him to take action before, or in opposition to, the university's investigation and findings of fact.

2. It has been alleged that Notre Dame failed to turn over records to the district attorney/local cops/etc. That is a distortion of the facts. ND police are their own jurisdiction, and turned over the results of the investigation to the DA. What they didn't do was subsequently forward that to the district in which the suicide took place. What ND did NOT do was "not tell the police about the accuser's allegation."

3. There is no credible reason to believe ND is NOT taking the matter seriously. Aside from fundamental fairness, they have every reason to be cautious. The city of Durham is under a lawsuit for civil rights violations allegedly sustained by athletes in the wake of Crystal Mangum's transparently false rape accusation. Duke itself already paid out an estimated $30 mil settlement to the accused for its role in abetting the prosecution's crimes. Every college in the country is treading very lightly when it comes to publicity for student legal matters.

4. I do think some sympathy for Kelly is in order; a number of situations basically beyond his control have come up in his tenure, ones that no head coach would wish on another. We at Michigan know how frustrating it is to see a coach who is trying to get his feet planted get buffeted by all sorts of distractions. ESPN has deliberately sexed up headlines to make it sound like Kelly is stonewalling on the case. 

5. The Trib's editorial reminds me of the overheated polemics written in the Durham Herald-Sun excoriating the Duke lacrosse team for the rape case that turned out to be a hoax. Newspaper editorial boards are no more qualified to make judgments on culpability than you or I. It is disgusting to infer that a grieving family's hiring counsel to investigate was evidence Notre Dame was covering something up. That is SOP for a family who wants a third party to tell them the truth, nothing wrong with that if they can afford it. (Incidentally, the Durham DA told the media that the lacrosse players hiring counsel was proof of guilt.)


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:59 PM ^

Especially 4 & 5. I guess I hadn't considered all the viewpoints, despite thinking that I had done so. As Michigan fans we should know that the media is not always unbiased and is likely be motivated by their own bottom line.


November 22nd, 2010 at 2:42 PM ^

Weighed against the death of 2 undergraduates, Brian Kelly's troubles are trivial and beneath my concern.

Without more facts, I do not blame Kelly but neither do I absolve him--as you seem to have done.

I do think that some transparency regarding this situation from ND is in order. In both situations, if ND does an internal investigation (the university police appear to me to be employees of the university with a conflict of interest) and determines no one did anything wrong and let's just all forget about it. That won't work. Trust but verify.

With regards to the alleged rape, it is time for state or local police force (unaffaliated with the university to take over.)

With regards to the video guy, someone is responsible. Period. He should not have been on that lift and someone should have known that.


November 22nd, 2010 at 3:16 PM ^

"Without more facts, I do not blame Kelly but neither do I absolve him--as you seem to have done."

There's nothing to absolve - Kelly is a third party, with no responsibilities in this case, yet. If the university hasn't come to a judgment he (and we) needs to wait. If they have and they told him the case was null or inconclusive, he's done the right thing in letting it be. Now if the university told him incontrovertible facts that indicated a player had broken team rules, then he needs to take action - in which case Kelly would be lying to the press when he says it's a university matter at this time.

As far as statements of transparency, if ND turned over their results to the DA, I think it's the DA's job to make a public appearance about its decision to not go forth with the case, if that's what happened. I agree with you somebody has to go public to clarify things since bloggers across America are running with all these uncertainties. I'm sure he'd like to get it over with either way, but Kelly himself can only make things messy by getting involved before he has a green light from the higher ups.

I think it's also worth noting that this is an unusual allegation for Notre Dame football; it's not like South Bend is a college football crime capital a la Lincoln of the 90's or modern Columbus. Their last well-publicized player accusation was a rape case that resulted in an acquittal (ND still expelled the youngsters for fornication). To me this buys ND a little bit of leeway in dealing with the case.

"With regards to the video guy, someone is responsible. Period. He should not have been on that lift and someone should have known that."

I concur; it's all but certain somebody's ass is going to fry for that. ND will be found liable or settle, which is what should happen.

Dogfish Head, eh? They make some very tasty brews.

Mitch Cumstein

November 22nd, 2010 at 1:54 PM ^

I guess the thing I don't get is the difference between university police and local police in this case (in terms of public records).  Is it because it is a private university and essentially a private contract between the school and campus police?  Whereas at UM it is a public school?  Or are university police in general not required to be as forthcoming with information as local or county police?


November 22nd, 2010 at 3:03 PM ^

I can't speak to ND or UM, but at Stanford the campus police are deputized by the county sheriff and thus emissaries of the law as well as enforcers of campus safety policies. The most germane impact was that they issued campus parking tickets redeemable to Santa Clara County, not the university itself.

As far as forthcoming with information, I imagine there's a whole swath of case law regulating what they can reveal vis a vis personal privacy, rights of the accused, the interests of public safety, public transparency, etc. If the ND police are part of the state law enforcement network, they probably have state-mandated guidelines for this. That's not to say they might not be flaunting said guidelines. We just don't know; but there is something to be said for ND going public with some of the information if only to give the impression they aren't holing up about it.

A few years back a Michigan State student was murdered, and the police/school did not tell her parents for A MONTH because they felt revealing the murder would compromise the investigation (i.e. cause the killer to flee). Tough case.


November 22nd, 2010 at 2:32 PM ^

As much as I dislike ND football, the death of a student photographer and now this latest tragedy is not the type of thing that I enjoy reading about.  We should be sympathetic to what ND is enduring. Anyone who finds these events as anything but tragic needs to get some help.  

I'd like to stick to to Kelly any way possible, but only on the football field.  I suspect as a community, we share these same feelings.


November 22nd, 2010 at 3:07 PM ^

As much as I hate Notre Dame, I have a hard time believing they wouldn't take an accusation of sexual assault seriously. They might handle it quietly but they would handle it.

I find this to be a totally separate issue than the Sullivan situation. Obviously I have no idea about the sexual assault claim but unless BK could confirm the kid broke another team rule (for instance if he admitted to being somewhere he should not have been, to being drunk when he's underage, or something of that sort) it's totally not appropriate for him to suspend a player who has only been accused of misconduct. Let the process take its course. 

In the Sullivan situation, I think it was neglience to have someone up there with the winds the way they were if reports of what the winds were are true. If nothing else they were bad enough for the kid to be terrified to be up there which says something. Someone is responsible for that and whoever is responsible needs to have consequences against them.


November 22nd, 2010 at 4:57 PM ^

This could be big trouble, not for Kelly, but for the university admin.

I don't know who here recalls Eastern Michigan a few years ago. They had a male student who they caught breaking into girl's dorms a few times and they turned him loose (local media said there may have been a racial element to it since the offender was diverse).

The offender finally got in and killed a girl. The university admin sat on it for a few weeks. Turns out there is a federal law that requires disclosure and updates on campus crime. EMU's president, VP for safety, and police chief all got fired and EMU got a medium sized federal fine.