Why Did the University of Notre Dame Fail It’s Own Christian Standards and Ideals?

Blogging is a rather amazing phenomenon. It has impacted politics, the church and almost everything else in between. When I began to write blogs in April of 2005 I had no idea what I was doing or where this would go. I began blogging because I enjoyed writing and believed I could express my thoughts in this form and thereby help and serve both God and some of his people. My core values were clear: speak the truth in love, always correct my mistakes when they became known to me and encourage people in every way possible to think, grow and change in the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. For about five years now I have written a blog almost every day of the week.

To this end I soon began to write about a whole panorama of issues and ideas. Now, more than six years later, I write to an audience that includes Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox. I write to non-Christians and I write to people on both sides of issues that divide us; homosexuality, abortion, health care, etc. I generally avoid partisan politics because I have no interest in these debates. I do not think culture is fundamentally altered by politics but politics is an expression of culture, for better and for worse. But I do not avoid big issues that shape culture and life thus there are always political ramifications to things I write about.

Along the way I also decided to write about some of my own personal passions; e.g. college football, baseball, movies, art and literature. This gave a humane color to the tapestry I was painting day-by-day. It allowed friends to see me, warts and all.

As I blog it never ceases to amaze me how the Internet allows people to discover my articles and blogs. Once I wrote a blog about two local persons, both of whom were featured on the front page of our newspaper. I profoundly missed the mark in what I said about one of these two persons and a relative of this brother in another state let me know how I messed this up. I asked for forgiveness and corrected my mistake online. I also made a friend in the process.

images Yesterday, I wrote about the football program at Notre Dame University. I was concerned about how the football program was allowed a “free pass” in several recent student related issues that rocked the South Bend campus. I referred to a Northbrook (IL) family that had lost their daughter because of the sexual assault she had suffered because of the actions of a member of the football team at Notre Dame. The subsequent failure of the university to deal with her appeal for help and justice put her life in a state of emotional crisis and resulted in the personal crisis that led to her death. I made reference to a “deal” that had been reached between the Seeberg family, in nearby Northbrook (IL), and the University of Notre Dame. In writing this point in my blog I was wrong. Yesterday, I received a lovely email from Lizzy’s dad, Mr. Tom Seeberg. Here is his appeal to me, which I gladly comply with in today’s post:

I read your blog post this morning (July 20). I want to correct one item that I hope you will change – there has been no deal cut between my family and Notre Dame. In fact, there has been no communication between us and ND since December 2010. I believe the "deal" you are referring to was in my reference in a statement (published in an op-ed in the South Bend Tribune) to the deal ND cut with the Department of Education not having to admit any failure in its policies and procedures.  I have attached a copy of the statement we issued after press inquiries resulting from the ND/DOE announcement on the Friday, just before the July 4th weekend.

Seeberg Family Statement

Notre Dame – DOE Resolution

July 1, 2011

When we read the resolution agreement and related press stories, we saw not words on a page but a face. We saw the face of our Lizzy, a frightened yet profoundly courageous young lady who did everything right when facing a nightmare. Perhaps it will be her legacy that our daughters and granddaughters, our sisters and nieces, may one day soon walk their college campuses with the safety and freedom that they should expect and their loved ones demand.

We are glad to see a professed commitment to change at Notre Dame – changes that may help make pursuing a claim of sexual violence easier for the next woman. Sadly though, the changes announced today do not fully address our concerns about the mishandling of Lizzy’s case. To this day, nearly one year after Lizzy reported being assaulted on the campus of Our Lady’s University, Notre Dame has refused to meet with us or discuss with us the results, if any, of Lizzy's complaint. They also refuse to acknowledge, let alone discuss, the obvious failures and shortcomings of the Notre Dame Security Police Department's efforts to investigate and pursue justice in Lizzy's case.

As respects Notre Dame’s comments on the resolution, sadly, the Notre Dame president and his administration, and the cabal of lawyers and PR flaks who do their bidding, have demonstrated once again that they don't get it–it being their existential obligation to live their mission with grace and integrity instead of protecting their reputation above all else. The spin machine is in full gear at Notre Dame. But the truth will prevail. Notre Dame's lawyers have cut a deal, signing the resolution without an admission of any failure in policy and procedures. However, implicit in the agreement with the DOE is just such an admission. Any truly objective reader of the full, signed statement will come to this obvious conclusion.

Lizzy's case speaks with quiet persistence from every cold and lawyerly sentence of the resolution. Notre Dame is now legally obligated to clean up its house. Regrettably, no person in leadership at Notre Dame is willing to stand tall and say so. But the truth will prevail.

We hope those, like us, who care about Notre Dame, its students, its legacy and its values will demand that the University demonstrates genuine leadership regarding these important issues. What is at stake is nothing less than the University's integrity and the future of the young men and woman lucky enough to call Notre Dame their home. My family and I continue to pray the University can find a path to a just result and tangible improvements that will make life better for the next woman.

Tom Seeberg

Northbrook, IL

I wrote Mr. Seeberg and expressed my concern for his family and my appreciation for his respectful, Christ-centered way of dealing with his pain and the sad treatment his family received from the university. Tom then sent me the following email:

Thank you for your kind thoughts and especially your prayers. Our blessing here is in knowing we have someone close to us who has gone before us and will be waiting for us. We are all here but a short time. It’s not about the time you get here, but what you do with it while you are here to learn Christ's message. We know our Lizzy "got it."

And on that happy note, there are some positive legacy of Lizzy's giving spirit that lives on.  See this link.
http://www.ctkjesuit.org/SeebergMemorialScholarship.htm

 

What an amazing statement of love and faith. I am awed by the Seeberg’s response. It reveals pain, dignity and love. It is a rare model of how good people deal with great tragedy. Pray for the Seeberg family in their grief and their continued response to the way the University of Notre Dame chose to mishandle this tragedy.

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