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Jenkins takes responsibility for Sullivan’s death, announces external investigation

Observer Staff Report | Friday, November 5, 2010

University President Fr. John Jenkins took responsibility for the death of junior Declan Sullivan in a Friday afternoon e-mail to the University community.

“We are conducting an investigation and we must be careful not to pre-judge its results, but I will say this: Declan Sullivan was entrusted to our care, and we failed to keep him safe,” Jenkins said in the e-mail. “We at Notre Dame — and ultimately I, as President — are responsible. Words cannot express our sorrow to the Sullivan family and to all involved.”

Sullivan, a videographer for the football team, died Oct. 27 after the hydraulic scissor lift from which he was filming football practice fell.

Jenkins’ e-mail also announced the appointment of Peter Likins, former University of Arizona president, to lead an external review of the Notre Dame’s investigation into Sullivan’s death.

Likins is also former president of Lehigh University, according to a University press release issued Friday. In addition to other roles in higher education, he has served as provost at Columbia University, where he was a professor and dean at the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Jenkins did not provide a timeline for the investigation, but said the University would make the results public when they became available.

“Investigations and external reviews such as this take time, but I assure you that, when complete, we will issue a public report on the outcome, including information on the events of the afternoon of Oct. 27, any institutional ramifications and recommendations for safety policies in the future,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins also expressed support for Head Football Coach Brian Kelly, in reaction to what he called “unfounded and unfair commentary and speculation.”

“Coach Kelly was hired not only because of his football expertise, but because we believed his character and values accord with the highest standards of Notre Dame,” Jenkins said. “All we have seen since he came to Notre Dame, and everything we have learned in our investigation to date, have confirmed that belief. For those reasons I am confident that Coach Kelly has a bright future leading our football program.”

Finally, the e-mail thanked Notre Dame students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents for concern and prayers following Sullivan’s death.

“At the darkest moments, the love, and care, and faith of the Notre Dame family shines most brightly,” he said.