Notre Dame responds to criticism of response to sexual misconduct complaints

by Dennis Brown

Notre Dame Blue Seal

In response to criticism directed at the University of Notre Dame for its response to sexual misconduct complaints, the University offers the following:

  • Sexual misconduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Notre Dame.
  • The Notre Dame Security Police Department is staffed by highly trained investigators who thoroughly and professionally investigate every allegation of sexual misconduct in accord with the practices established by our county prosecutor and others in law enforcement.
  • Notre Dame has a long-held belief and policy that our students deserve certain degrees of privacy as part of the educational process, and we stand by that principle, even in the face of the criticism that might invite. In addition, the University, of course, adheres to FERPA regulations protecting privacy.


To more fully elaborate:

Notre Dame takes very seriously its obligation to thoroughly investigate every allegation of sexual misconduct, particularly in light of the gravity, complexity and sensitivity of these cases. Those who do this important work on our campus are highly qualified and extremely competent. The Notre Dame Security Police Department is a licensed police agency in the state of Indiana, and the detectives that lead NDSP’s investigations unit have extensive experience, including with the FBI and municipal law enforcement agencies. The department’s director is the current president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

Throughout the course of sexual misconduct investigations, NDSP works closely with the Prosecutor’s Office, the Special Victims Unit and other area police departments. NDSP officers adhere to the police standards for fact and evidence gathering, timing and other procedures used by these local agencies, and the St. Joseph County prosecutor and others in law enforcement have publicly affirmed the thoroughness and professionalism of NDSP’s investigation of these and other cases.

We regret that some are critical of our handling of sexual misconduct allegations, and we understand the pain these families are experiencing. At the same time, we stand behind the thoroughness, integrity and objectivity of our investigations, as well as the comprehensive services available to students who are subjected to sexual misconduct.

Congress established in 1974 the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects a wide spectrum of student education records, including grades and disciplinary history. However, beyond the limitations imposed by FERPA, it is Notre Dame’s long-held belief and policy that our students deserve certain degrees of privacy as part of the educational process, and we have stood by that principle, even in the face of the criticism that might invite. It is well known that Notre Dame calls students to accountability for their choices and sees that as an integral part of our role in facilitating their growth and learning. At the same time, for a student to be subject to external scrutiny as they face the challenges which are often part of college life is a very heavy and unfair burden, and can interfere with their ability to learn from these experiences. Consequently, we believe that a student’s education, development and formation are best facilitated in a context that respects and protects their privacy, which is why we do not discuss specific student disciplinary matters. Of course, conduct that violates state or federal law and results in an arrest or the filing of criminal charges becomes a matter of public record, and we do not and cannot shield students from this reality.

Sexual misconduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Notre Dame. The unfortunate reality is that sexual misconduct is a serious issue at colleges and universities across the country, and we are not immune. Sexual misconduct on college campuses almost always involves students who are acquainted, and alcohol use by one or both parties is a factor in many instances. The University works tirelessly on many fronts to combat sexual misconduct – by holding students to the highest of behavioral standards, providing victims and survivors with the resources they need, offering an array of education and prevention programs, and promoting an environment of respect that honors the human dignity of each person. More information is available online at csap.nd.edu.