Readers of my review of Emily Yoffee’s review of The Hunting Ground may be interested in knowing that the Chronicle has been contacted by Dennis K. Brown, an Assistant Vice President and University Spokesman at Notre Dame, in response to alleged inaccuracies about the Lizzy Seeberg case. Brown’s request reads as follows:
From: Dennis Brown [email address redacted]
Sent: Friday, March 06, 2015 1:54 PM
To: Dianne Donovan
Subject: Blog entry
I’m not sure if you’re the right person to contact, but do hope you can assist or point me in the right direction.
An article this week by Claire Potter on sexual assault includes inaccurate information about a case at Notre Dame four years ago. Here’s the link to her article.
Specifically, she writes in the second paragraph that multiple football players were accused when it was one. More egregiously, she calls the accused student a “rapist” toward the end of the article. As the county prosecutor reported in December 2010, rape was never claimed, nor was there a rape. Here is the link to his statement of Dec. 16, 2010.
As the prosecutor indicates in his statement, media outlets at the time were incorrectly reporting the case as a rape and that has continued over the years. We ask for corrections when we see the error repeated, and I’m hoping you can assist in correcting the current inaccuracy in the Chronicle.
Let me know if there is anything else I need to do.
After reading Brown’s complaint carefully, I have made minimal updates to the post, and provided an explanation for that at the bottom of the OP. I have copied it here, for those of you who do not wish to click back and scroll through:
On March 6, The Chronicle was contacted by Dennis Brown, Assistant Vice President of News and Media Relationships at Notre Dame, claiming inaccuracies in the two sections of the post that refer to Notre Dame. I responded in this way:
In relation to Brown’s characterization of the post as being “about sexual assault,” the post was about Emily Yoffee’s review of The Hunting Ground, a movie about sexual assault on campus.
In relation to Brown’s assertion that “Specifically, [Potter] writes in the second paragraph that multiple football players were accused when it was one,” I have changed the post to reflect that the other student (who was also not interviewed by Notre Dame police) may not have been a football player. I would also not be shocked to learn that, despite being a key witness to what led to the events in question, he was not sought out by Notre Dame police. However I mention no specific crime that the football player was not being promptly questioned about in that paragraph, hence there is no accusation of rape.
Brown’s second assertion, “More egregiously, she calls the accused student a ‘rapist’ toward the end of the article. As the county prosecutor reported in December 2010, rape was never claimed, nor was there a rape.” Although I did not call the student a rapist, I have added “alleged” as a modifier several times to remove any doubt about this. As to Brown”s statement: “nor was there a rape:” the whole point of this part of the film is the allegation that Notre Dame interfered with the investigation. This interference is consistent with university policies that Notre Dame police may not contact an athlete while he or she is at an athletic facility, and other instances in which the university ignored or failed to investigate what had happened to Seeberg, including being threatened by her alleged assailant subsequent to whatever happened. A campus policeman at Notre Dame resigned because of the sequence of events between the alleged assault and Notre Dame’s defense of itself, which was organized around emphasizing Seeberg’s history of emotional illness.
Brown supplies this link, the County Prosecutor’s report, which addresses alleged sexual battery, to bolster his assertion that there was no rape. And yet not all the information is there: only the information that was collected, long after the fact, and long after Notre Dame had mounted its campaign against Seeberg. No physical evidence in the case was collected, and Seeberg’s own testimony was never heard. The Catholic Reporter cites witnesses that Lizzy Seeberg was shattered by what happened to her, and Notre Dame’s unwillingness to deal with it; and her father testifies to that in the movie. There are numerous inconsistencies in the story, as well as gaps, because no one ever listened to Lizzy’s full story except her friend and her parents, and the assault was never investigated prior to her suicide. Brown’s statement — “nor was there a rape” — does not address seriousness of what Seeberg alleged had happened, sexual assault and physical battery, which are also serious crimes.
As a footnote, Brown has a personal connection to the Notre Dame Athletic Department: his wife is the head coach of women’s volleyball.