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Empowered individuals

Eddie Guilbeau | Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mr. Martin (“University response to Declan Sullivan tragedy,” April 20) is rightly outraged at the negligence that led to the deaths of two students in 1991 and the death of Declan Sullivan in 2010. I am of the opinion, however, that Mr. Martin’s suggestions for increased oversight miss the point, failing to address a key issue present in both incidents.

Concerning the 1991 bus crash that killed two students, Mr. Martin says that a call was made to the University on behalf of the women’s swim team requesting advisement on whether they should spend the night in Chicago rather than drive back to campus through a snowstorm. The team was advised to come home. News articles published after Declan Sullivan’s death mention tweets from the afternoon of the October 2010 accident in which Declan repeatedly expressed concern about wind conditions.

In both incidents people directly involved sensed obvious danger, but for whatever reason, they did not feel that they had the authority to remove themselves from the dangerous situation. Most likely, they simply trusted the judgment of their superiors above their own judgment. It seems that both of these tragedies could have been prevented if Notre Dame had fostered an environment in which people felt they could make their own decisions to preserve their personal safety.

Regulations and oversight from senior authority will inevitably break down at some point. We can develop a superb system, and Mr. Martin has some very good suggestions, but no human effort can yield a perfect system. The only way to fill the gaps in the system is to build an environment in which people know that they can remove themselves from what they perceive to be a dangerous situation without consulting a higher authority.

Eddie Guilbeau


Duncan Hall

April 20