The University of Notre Dame has been placed under federal review by the U.S. Department of Education following two incidents of reported sexual assault that occurred this academic year.
Although university spokesman Dennis Brown told the Notre Dame Observer that the "review is unrelated to any specific cases," the Chicago Tribune reports that the Education Department started the investigation following the paper's story on the case of Lizzy Seeberg. Seeberg was a St. Mary's College student who took her own life nine days after saying she had been sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame student. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Tribune that he is taking the investigation "very seriously."
In response to the review, the university released a statement saying that "sexual misconduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Notre Dame," reports the Observer. The statement continued: "We understand the pain these families are experiencing. At the same time, we stand behind the thoroughness, integrity, and objectivity of our investigations."
On Thursday, the Tribune reported that a second case of sexual assault was mishandled by the university.
According to the Tribune, the parents of another St. Mary's student who accused a Notre Dame student of sexually assaulting her came to the paper with complaints against the university saying that they were upset by the Notre Dame's apparent lack of interest in their daughter's case. The alleged victim's father said that the university did not respond promptly to the police report. The accuser told the Tribune that when she did finally meet with a detective, "it seemed that protecting Notre Dame was [the detective's] best interest, not me."
"Looking back, I'm surprised that they dealt with my case in the exact same way after the loss of another student's life. I thought that would have given them incentive to speed up my case," the student said.
According to the South Bend Tribune, charges were not filed by the second St. Mary's student because, in the words of Prosecutor Michael Dvorak, "there was insufficient evidence with which to prosecute."
Dvorak added that according to a police report from Sept. 4, when the incident took place, the accuser "stated that at this time she does not wish to pursue criminal prosecution and/or administrative sanctions through Notre Dame's residence life (office)." The accuser denies having made this statement.
According to Notre Dame's statement, the university has been cooperating with the Department of Education.
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