Former student files lawsuit against Notre Dame
Observer Staff Report | Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Updated Thursday at 7:07 p.m.
An unnamed former student filed a lawsuit against Notre Dame on Aug. 17 alleging the University orchestrated the closure of a Title IX sexual assault case to facilitate the transfer of a Notre Dame football player.
According to the complaint filed in the St. Joseph Circuit Court, the female student — referred to as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit — is suing for damages on the counts of negligence and invasion of privacy, breach of contract and violation of Title IX on the basis of gender bias.
In January of 2016, Doe agreed to help an intoxicated Notre Dame football player — referred to as “Jack Roe” — return to his dorm room in Alumni Hall, where she was sexually assaulted, according to the lawsuit. At the time, Doe was enrolled at the Gateway Program at Holy Cross College, a program that facilitates the transfer process into Notre Dame for select students who were not admitted to the University as freshmen.
Doe decided to deal with the incident in a private way by simply avoiding contact with Roe, the lawsuit stated. However, three months after the incident, a female Notre Dame student approached Doe to ask for her anonymous support of a second victim who was hesitant to report an alleged assault by the same football player.
This student took Doe’s story to the Title IX Office, triggering the response of deputy Title IX coordinator Heather Ryan, who summoned Doe to her office in April of 2016. Doe told Ryan she did not want to participate in an investigation or disclose the name of her attacker for fear of retaliation, the lawsuit said.
According to the suit, however, Doe received a note from Ryan one month later saying she had discovered the name of the respondent and would be launching a Title IX investigation, which would call for the issuance of a no-contact order between Doe and Roe.
Doe told her father about the assault for the first time, concerned her name would be given to Roe, the lawsuit said. After multiple calls to the Title IX office, Doe’s father and University administrators agreed there would be no action taken until the case of the “second victim” — the girl who reported Doe’s case — was fully investigated.
One week later, according the suit, Doe’s father received a message from University associate vice president for student services Bill Stackman saying: “Notre Dame is not obligated to obtain consent from either Jane or her father prior to providing her name to her rapist. We acknowledge we have received your written and verbal notice forbidding it, however, Notre Dame will proceed today to notify Mr. Roe of the complaint, including its source.”
Stackman also said “no rock has been left un-turned” when describing the University’s investigation of the second case against Roe,” according to the suit. Doe and her dad reached out to this student, the suit said, and found she had not been contacted by the Title IX office since April.
Doe contacted her Title IX resource coordinator in June to discuss campus housing options and her anxiety of crossing paths with Roe in the future. According the suit, the coordinator suggested Doe close her Title IX case, citing it as a factor holding up Roe’s ability to transfer to another school and thus increasing Doe’s chance of running into him in the fall.
Doe agreed to close the case and Roe transferred to a Power Five football school with a clean record, where he is expected to play this fall, the suit said.
According to the lawsuit, Doe completed the fall semester of 2016 at Notre Dame but withdrew from the University one month into the following semester due to deteriorating physical and mental health.
“We will respond in full to the complaint, which contains several inaccurate allegations, in court,” Paul Browne, University vice president for public affairs and communications, said in an email. “For now, we note that every university has a legal obligation to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. Notre Dame takes this obligation seriously, and endeavors to do so in a manner that is as respectful as possible of the privacy and safety of all students involved. We believe we did so in this case. The claim that Notre Dame’s process in this case assisted the accused student in transferring is one of several false statements in the complaint, which we will defend vigorously.”