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SMC, ND release statements on death

Observer Staff Report | Monday, November 22, 2010

Both Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s released statements Sunday in reaction to a Chicago Tribune story about the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 10 death of first year Saint Mary’s student Elizabeth “Lizzy” Seeberg.

The Chicago Tribune reported in Sunday story that Seeberg told Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) she was sexually attacked by a Notre Dame football player Aug. 31.

Originally from Northbrook, Ill., Seeberg died at Memorial Hospital in South Bend on Sept. 10. She was 19 years old and a resident of McCandless Hall.

In a Sunday statement, Saint Mary’s director of media relations Gwen O’Brien directly referenced the Chicago Tribune story and said the College would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Seeberg’s death.

“Saint Mary’s College does not comment on matters that may infringe on the privacy of our current or former students,” O’Brien said. “We are also respecting the privacy of the Seeberg family.”

The statement listed a number of educational and support services provided to all Saint Mary’s students regarding sexual assault, including sessions during the first two weeks of school for first year students.

“At Saint Mary’s College, the safety, security and well-being of our students are our top priorities,” O’Brien said. “We take our responsibility to guide them through their four years at Saint Mary’s very seriously. As an all-women’s college, Saint Mary’s provides our young women with a variety of programs, many of which are required, to prepare them for life in the world today.”

Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said Sunday the University takes all reports of broken laws and University policy seriously.

“Notre Dame will never be silent or passive when it comes to the careful, thorough and fair determination of whether or not laws or university policies have been broken on our campus,” Brown said. “This is an important obligation and one that we take very seriously.”

Brown said the University does not release information about specific cases involving students.

“We have a longstanding, effective and consistent process in place that gathers information, eliminates rumors and makes informed, fact-based determinations, all while adhering to university policies and the federal student privacy laws that restrict us from discussing specific disciplinary cases,” Brown said.

NDSP is a fully authorized police force and works closely with other local law enforcement, Brown said. The University forwards all investigations of sexual assault to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office.

According to ESPN Chicago, Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly said during a Sunday conference call with reporters that the issue is a “University matter.”

“I’m not going to get into the specifics,” Kelly said. “From my standpoint, as the head football coach, I think it was made clear that the University is going to deal with any matters of this nature. And that for me, one of the reasons why I came to Notre Dame is I have the same standards that our University does. We are in lockstep relative to the standards that we hold here at the University of Notre Dame.”

In a Sunday e-mail to the Saint Mary’s student body, College President Carol Ann Mooney said the “outpouring of support and concern” in response to the Chicago Tribune story reflected Saint Mary’s sense of community.

“The outpouring of support and concern by our students, faculty, and staff reinforces what we all know is special about Saint Mary’s, our unique sense of community inspired by our Holy Cross heritage,” she stated. “I realize this story will reawaken painful memories.”

The e-mail also listed support services for students, including the Women’s Health Center, Campus Ministry, Belles Against Violence Office, Residence Life and Community Standards and Campus Security.