Another Student Dies, and Notre Dame Takes No Responsibility

Vita, Dulcedo, Spes.

Translated from Latin, it reads: life, sweetness, hope. It’s the motto of the University of Notre Dame. It’s the motto of a school that just sold out Yankee Stadium for a football game against a team that hasn’t won a bowl game in 25 years. And it’s a motto that hasn’t been making much sense lately.

On October 27, a gust of wind hit the tower from which Declan Sullivan was videotaping a Notre Dame football practice. He tweeted warnings, but it was too late. The lift toppled over and crashed to the ground, killing Sullivan.

But you know all that already. You know the football team played on. You know no one involved resigned. You know that Sullivan’s death could’ve been prevented easily. And you know that it took the university way too long to shoulder any blame.

Of Notre Dame football, Jeff MacGregor wrote, “Welcome to a world without consequences.” And that’s what it has become. Or maybe it’s always been that way, but it’s finally out in the open for all of us to see.

MacGregor added:

Poor Declan Sullivan is dead because he fell into the gap between the real world and the fairy tale of college football.

It’s hard not to think the same of Lizzy Seeberg. At the end of August, Seeberg, a 19-year-old freshman at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame’s sister school, told police that she had been sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player. Nine days later she committed suicide.

It’s been three months since her death. Yet not a word about the incident has come out of South Bend. According to the Chicago Tribune:

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

Campus authorities did not tell the St. Joseph County Police Department investigating Seeberg’s death about her report of a sexual attack, county officials said. Nor did they refer the case to the county’s special victims unit, which was established to handle sex offenses, according to prosecutors.

The University has shielded school officials from commenting on the situation, but the school issued a statement on Thursday. A generic, blanket statement, but a statement nonetheless:

Any time we are made aware of a student potentially violating university policies, we implement a process that is careful and thorough so that facts can be gathered, rumors and misinformation can be sorted out, and an informed decision can be made about what action to take—if action is warranted. We take our obligation seriously, we involve law enforcement officials as appropriate, and we act in accordance with the facts.

While we should reserve judgment before more details emerge—Seeberg’s parents have hired a prosecutor to investigate the allegations—Notre Dame has done nothing over the past few months to suggest they would’ve handled this properly.

To quote MacGregor one last time:

Because not only do big-time, big-money sports no longer seem to build character but they seem to actively undermine it, spectacularly so, across entire institutions.

The University of Notre Dame is making it all too hard to disagree.


About Ryan O'Hanlon

Ryan O'Hanlon is the managing editor of the Good Men Project. He used to play soccer and go to college. He's still trying to get over it. You can follow him on Twitter @rwohan.


  1. Jim Fitzgerald says:


    How do you feel now that the St Joe’s Co has admitted that they were in fact, WRONG? Notre Dame officials did collaborate responsibly throughout this young lady’s tragedy.

    You obviously do not know all of the circumstances surrounding Declan’s death, as well.

    What you are good at is being a ghoul–you’ve used these people to garner your 15 minutes of shame.

    You are irresponsible, and you owe the faculty, staff and students of Notre Dame an apology.

  2. Bob G. Lorenzen says:

    “The school and any officials close to the situation have all but completely shirked any responsibility.”

    Hmmm….. No they haven’t. Here’s the proof. Actually it’s the title of the article.

    You also say “we should wait to pass any judgment until we get more information” but your accusatory tone throughout the article seems to suggest otherwise. I mean, look at the passive-aggressive title for crying out loud.

    • Ryan O'Hanlon says:


      I link to the school’s apology in the article. It’s easy for the president to say that it was the school’s fault, but what are they actually doing about it? Has anyone lost his/her job over this? No.

      Declan Sullivan is dead, and he shouldn’t be. But what’s really changed? The same people are in power, and Notre Dame moves on. Is that really how it should be?

      • Bob G. Lorenzen says:

        Notre Dame moves on? It’s been less than a month. Investigations take time. Again, you’re saying we shouldn’t rush to judgment, but then you insinuate that some people should have already been fired. Unfortunately, in today’s litigious society, if Notre Dame would have shouldered the full blame before they gathered all the information about the Declan Sullivan situation it might set a negative precedent for future accidents and open the door to more lawsuits. There are a lot of opportunistic people out there. No organization, university or otherwise, would EVER comment on a controversial story like this before they had all the facts. It’s a pretty standard procedure. It is an awful, terrible tragedy what happened to Declan Sullivan, but it’s not like Brian Kelly or Jack Swarbrick walked up and pushed that lift over. While Notre Dame is responsible, it was an accident, albeit a preventable one. All I’m saying is that we should wait and see what the outcome is before we start putting out sensational pieces like this one.

  3. Ryan O'Hanlon says:

    Here’s where I’m coming from. The Declan Sullivan situation was handled poorly. The school and any officials close to the situation have all but completely shirked any responsibility. His death was easily preventable.

    Now, we know that Lizzy Seeberg filed a sexual assault report to the Notre Dame police. We know that they withheld the information before her death, and we know that they withheld it during the investigation of her death. How that’s defensible, I don’t really know.

    Yeah, there might be a good reason why Notre Dame never passed on this information, but it’s hard for me to see that. And given how badly the school’s reacted to Declan Sullivan’s death, it’s even harder.

    The two situations are not the same. Declan Sullivan’s death was easily and directly preventable. Seeberg’s wasn’t. Had Notre Dame officials passed on her report to higher authorities, maybe it would’ve been of some benefit to Seeberg, but it also might not have been. We’ll never know, but what we do know is that it COULD have been of some help. And that’s why it’s a travesty.

    Now, as I said, we should wait to pass any judgment until we get more information. What I’m trying to say is that Notre Dame’s recent actions haven’t given us any reason to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  4. Pope Leo X says:

    Since no one before me has said it, I will. Last week’s episode of Law and Order: SVU touched upon this and other cases of sexual assault that remain lost in the bureaucratic system of colleges and universities that refrains from allowing local authorities deal with such sensitive cases because these institutions fear that it will tarnish their “reputation.” The reality is that these universities are profit-bearing corporations that would rather hide and deal with their dirty-laundry personally instead of properly investigating and prosecuting the responsible individuals. But then again, why should the prestigious University of Notre Dame indulge the local authorities with their findings from their “full investigation?” Simply because having one of your football players raping another student wouldn’t be good for business. Just as simple as that. And just because they’ve done great things in the past, does not give them a “freebie” now.

  5. The way news exists now is a travesty and Mr. Hanlon, you are only stating what is necessary for people to read your drivel. Have you done any first hand research? Or are you just taking from other statements and other public information and forming opinions based on that.

    The news media will publish anyone who has an opinion on anything regardless of whether it is based in reality, or just a random opinion that questions authority for the sake of some self importance or lack of.

    Everyone can say whatever they will about Notre Dame University, or the catholic church at large, but this institution does more good for the world in a millisecond of time then anyone with a random opinion to offer does in their entire life. To imagine that a large university with so much at stake should just randomly give an opinion or decision without careful and full investigation, and that they should freely give their findings to anyone who feels like they deserve it is really just a joke, especially when the person writing only cites examples from the work someone else does.

    Come awn O’Hanlon, you have to do better than that.

  6. What evidence, physical or otherwise, has been presented in this case that would make ND responsible? That’s your suggestion O’Hanlon? Attaching this to the Sullivan tragedy is a stretch and borderline irresponsible on your part.

    • Watching all the ND fans rush to the school’s defense says enough about the lack of class that Notre Dame has. You have one of your players stomp on a Navy kid, and Kelly doesn’t punish him at all. Congrats on making it to a bowl game, you scumbags, you only had to kill 2 kids to get to 6 wins.

  7. I honestly can’t believe 3 posters have already replied defending an administration over the lives of 2 students. If Sullivan were at Ohio State, he would still be alive because Tressel had the common sense to hold practice indoors during the same storm. All Seeberg’s family, (and the writer of this article) are calling for is an investigation.

    The attitude of ND seems to mimic the attitude of the catholic church in covering up pedophilia cases here.

  8. “Voice of Reason” is clearly affiliated with ND in some way, and they are quick to try to cover up the incidents with typical responses – depression, a case of poor judgment, etc.

    To respond to your Q’s.

    Where’s the cover up?
    The cover up exists in that no one was held accountable for Sullivan’s death, just as no charges were filed with South Bend SVU for the alleged rape of Seeberg.

    Previous bouts of depression?
    Many women with mental illness are targeted for rape for just that reason. Further, she was functioning as a normal student going to class, she had goals,dreams, and aspirations of becoming a nurse. This indicates her medication was working to counter her symptoms.

    Why are you assuming no investigation?
    If there was a thorough investigation, it should have gone above University jurisdiction for matters of rape. If there was a thorough investigation, then it should be available to vindicate the football player, or to file charges. I’m guessing there wasn’t one because they’re sweeping under the rug allegations that would hurt the school’s reputation. At least Duke acknowleged lacrosse players discretions and filed reports with the Durham police.

    Unfortunately, 2 students have died apparently from preventable causes. Nobody was there to listen though. The administration is accountable.

    • Voice of Reason says:

      Re: the cover up: I hope you read the papers this morning, which revealed that Notre Dame police did indeed turn over the sexual-assault allegation file to the South Bend authorities upon the St. Mary’s student’s death. This is directly contrary to the Chicago Tribune’s article, which declared that Notre Dame had not mentioned the sexual-assault allegation to the South Bend police. This point, which was even at the time clouded in generalities, was the “cover up” this blog post was discussing. Well, there’s not a cover up… so…. feel free to hate on the university, but at least say something that’s true–factually.

      Re: her alleged previous bouts of depression: Wow, I think you and everyone on this post should properly respect that student’s life and QUIT making up things about her life. You know nothing about her medication. The tribune story said she had battled with depression. That’s all we know. We don’t know if she was “targeted” because of her alleged depression–you and I could sit here and think of thousands of possibilities based on stereotypes we hold concerning depressed individuals. Which is why that’s dangerous and disrespectful. We’re talking about what the tribune published, and why this blogpost engaged in incredibly irresponsible journalism.

      Re: ND’s investigation: Actually, as we learned today, the Chicago Tribune was INCORRECT, as stated by the South Bend police–ND did hand over the information upon the student’s death, which was the proper course of action. We have no idea–rightfully so–the details of that investigation. I am overjoyed that you spend your time “guessing” why ND might have engaged in a cover up that wasn’t a cover up, but you just made my point: writing on a public blog such speculative opinions that are aimed at the highest level of Notre Dame is merely guessing, and in this case, ignoring the facts. I’ll be the first to come back here and write on this post that Notre Dame should be held accountable if there is any evidence that they mishandled this case. But what we DO know doesn’t even begin to support those accusations. It’s a shame the student died; why don’t you write a post commemorating her rather than drag her through the mud even more than she already has been.

      • Just wondering says:

        Seeing all the responses really makes me ill. What proof? I’ll tell you now, my 18 year old daughter needs no proof. Her word is her proof. What did this girl possibly have to gain from being “allegedly assaulted”? The fame of taking down an ND football player? Not money. Never heard of a rape victim being rewarded money. Her family obviously has money being as they hired a lawyer to do an investigation. So someone please tell me, what did this woman have to gain? Seems to me we are, however, speaking of a university that has much to lose. Losing face.

  9. Here we go. Another sensationalized article in which the writer jumps to conclusions. We don’t even know if she even committed suicide. It was hinted at by Saint Mary’s College that she had died suddenly of an illness because she had been very sick the last few days.

    While it’s possible that she did indeed kill herself (which is horrible, obviously), we don’t know if it’s even tied to these sexual assault allegations. I think we’re jumping the gun and The Chicago Tribune should be ashamed that they didn’t have more hard facts before they printed the story. Because if this ends up not being true, then the university will once again be thrown under the bus or even worse, Lizzy Seeberg may be caught up in a scandal when she shouldn’t have. If it turns out that she was sexually assaulted and consequently killed herself due to the lack of initiative of the Notre Dame police, then I will be proven wrong and this will have been an even greater tragedy. However, until then, I will not jump to conclusions, and like “Voice of Reason” says, I expect a little more journalistic responsibility from certain writers, maybe not from but certainly from The Chicago Tribune.

  10. Notre Dame has nothing to take responsibility for at this time. There has been no proof that this girl was ever sexually assaulted and it has been stated that she suffered from depression. Did you ever stop to think that maybe that’s why she killed herself? I know it’s easiest to just place blame on Notre Dame, but maybe you should wait until you have all of the facts before placing blame.

  11. Voice of Reason says:

    Journalistic irresponsibility. That’s all this is. Where’s the cover up? What evidence is there that the football player’s alleged action had anything to do with the girl’s tragic death? Did you read that she had previous bouts of depression? Why are you assuming there was not a thorough investigation–and why would you demand that the results of that investigation be made public? I mean, in sum, why are you writing such a speculative piece? If it’s to lower your credibility, mission accomplished.

    • Typical Notre Dame fan. Defending your scumbag team. From stomping on Navy kids (with no punishment handed down by Kelly) to killing 2 kids, Notre Dame is pure class. Congrats on making it to a bowl game, you only needed to kill 2 kids to get to it. You disgusting piece of shit.


  1. […] 6 percent of men are likely to be victims of attempted sexual assault while in college. Yale and Notre Dame are just two of a number of high-profile schools that’ve been hit by sexual assault scandals […]

  2. […] Originally Posted by rocket31 thats a lie. if that was true, he would have resigned or been fired. the president of the university addressed this issue months ago. supported kelly and said the university AS A WHOLE takes the blame. the sullivan family will be compensated and honored by notre dame and this will never go to court. sad story. Yeah it's not like Notre Dame has ever covered up anything right? Another Student Dies, and Notre Dame Takes No Responsibility ? The Good Men Project Magazine […]

  3. […] St. Clair, Tribune reporter University …Prosecutor reviewing Notre Dame assault claimESPNAnother Student Dies, and Notre Dame Takes No ResponsibilityThe Good Men ProjectND Football Player Remains In Uniform Despite Allegations Of Sex AttackChicago […]

Speak Your Mind