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.
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.
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.