The University of Notre Dame has come to be as widely known for its prestige on the football field as its shameful handling of campus sexual assaults. In 2010, Lizzy Seeberg, a 19-year-old freshman at the college who was allegedly raped by a football player on campus, committed suicide after administrators failed to stand by her when she reported her assault; at the time of her death, 10 days from when she reported the alleged rape, the accused player had not been investigated and had not even missed a game.
Notre Dame's rape culture isn't exceptional—research shows that one in five women will experience sexual assault on campus—but a recent suit alleges that the school's faculty might be playing more than an indirect role. An unidentified student is suing Notre Dame and an unnamed academic coach, claiming that he was a "victim of a manipulative and predatory scheme." According to the claim filed in the St. Joseph Circuit Court, a former academic tutor at the University forced the student into having sex with her daughter, who goes to a nearby school and was also an employee at Notre Dame.
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The student, who is black, claims that his tutor, who is white, facilitated sexual liaisons between him and the tutor's daughter; according to the suit, she provided condoms, transportation, and hotel rooms for the arrangement, which started back in March, Pete Augostino, one of the student's lawyers, tells Broadly. The academic coach then allegedly "engaged in threatening behavior" when the student wanted to call the arrangement off in May. That behavior included recommending the student to a counselor on campus, who allegedly colluded with the defendant to keep the student in the arrangement and convert him into Catholicism. The student's lawyers claim that the University counselor also failed to report the students claims of sexual assault in accordance with Title IX. The case was not investigated by Notre Dame until the student's parents contacted the school in late August.
I think the University was just hoping for this whole thing to evaporate.
"I think the University was just hoping for this whole thing to evaporate," says Augostino.
The Notre Dame student claims that the sexual relationship was not only coercive, but racially motivated. The report alleges that the former school tutor "targeted [the student] for this treatment based upon his status as a young, African American, male." She is also alleged to have made "racially-charged" comments about the student's "sexual prowess and genitalia." The student is suing the school for a "failure to provide a racially and sexually safe educational environment."
And according to the suit, the academic coach is alleged to have routinely targeted young, black men at the school in this way. It claims that other alleged victims include members of Notre Dame's basketball and football teams.
As a result of Notre Dame's independent investigation of the case, University's Title IX coordinator, Karrah Miller, sent a letter to the student that also contradicts the University's claims that his allegations are entirely baseless. The letter, dated October 16, was provided by Michael Misch, another lawyer on the case, at Broadly's request. According to the letter, the University launched an investigation into the student's claims and found that the "academic coach's behavior violated the University's values and the University's Sexual and Discriminatory Harassment Policy" and, as a result, was terminated.
The academic coach is also alleged to have made 'racially-charged' comments about the student's "sexual prowess and genitalia."
"[The University] wrote a letter to our client that shows that they felt the allegations were substantiated enough to terminate the employee," says Augostino. "I don't know why Notre Dame is now taking the tactic that they are instead of saying that this behavior is wrong."
The University of Notre Dame did not respond to Broadly's request for comment.