What We Cannot Choose To Ignore During Michigan State-Notre Dame Week

Source: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Source: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

I almost forgot that this week was "Notre Dame week" for the Michigan State football-minded until my boyfriend commented on his outfit yesterday. He wore St. Patrick's Day socks with shamrocks all over them to match his khakis and Spartan polo because they were green and white, but after sporting that look the past 12 hours, he sighed and asked if I saw anything wrong with his outfit. My response, "Of all weeks to choose to wear those together..." Sorry, Mike!

There is one thing I definitely have not forgotten, though, despite the media seemingly choosing to give it minimal attention: The University of Notre Dame allegedly mishandled and covered up a sexual assault committed by a guy who was a member of its football team at the time.

The university chose this route as an expedient method to deal with the situation, following a pattern of dealing with such cases in the manner that made Notre Dame come out on top regardless of the impact on the students involved.
— Jane Doe, excerpt from lawsuit filed August 17, 2017

A former Notre Dame student filed a lawsuit against the institution for violating Title IX of the Education Amendments Act, breach of contract, negligence, and invasion of privacy. The complaint states that after "Jane Doe" was walking a drunk football player back to his dorm one night in January 2016, he assaulted her and destroyed her phone when she was trying to call for help.

Doe says she did not report the assault immediately following the incident because she "feared the player" (as many victims at nearly every college campus tend to say, unsurprisingly). She also claims that once she found out that the accused football player would learn her name, she became even more reluctant to report the rape. Eventually, she did report it to the university. Doe chose to do so in support of another woman who claimed to be raped by the same football player. So, what happened? According to the suit filed, campus officials tried to get her to withdraw her sexual assault complaint so that the football player could have a clean record and transfer schools.

Notre Dame's statement regarding the lawsuit was no surprise. "'Like every university, Notre Dame has a legal obligation to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct,' the statement from spokesman Paul Browne said. 'It takes this obligation and the safety of its students seriously, and proceeds in a manner that is as respectful as possible of the privacy of the students involved. We did so in this case.'"

The university provides a PDF titled "Understanding the University Process for Student Reports" [click button above] and consists of a flow chart detailing each step and what is supposed to happen along the way. Here, in Doe's alleged fact pattern, the process failed to progress past the first step under "Report an Incident". Also, I highly doubt Notre Dame shared an update on filed complaints that contained this report as it agreed to do in the Memorandum of Understanding [click button above].

There are without a doubt communication issues as well as confusion and lack of trust in the processes for reporting sexual misconduct on campuses, generally. Honestly, even if the institution followed procedures in treating Doe's report respectfully, it may have done so with their heads in the sand. Maybe any brief investigation was done simply to check the boxes, or maybe it was done "respectfully" but without considering the matter's personal, damaging nature these matters. Regardless of whether the incident truly happened as reported, these steps and procedures should have been followed to a reasonable point, and we will find out in a court of law whether they were or were not followed to such a point. Rivalries aside, everyone can agree on this point.