Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Notre Dame has released the report following its internal investigation regarding the death of student videographer Declan Sullivan, and president Rev. John Jenkins has said that the university as a whole is to blame.
"The university ... is collectively responsible," Jenkins said. "Insofar as the President is responsible for the university as a whole, I am the individual who bears the most responsibility, and I accept that responsibility."
But Jenkins' acceptance may not quiet critics angered by the report's claim that "no one acted in disregard for safety" when 53 miles-per-hour winds overturned Sullivan's hydraulic lift last fall. To read not-so-deeply between the lines of Jenkins' open letter on the incident, blame must be shared "collectively" since it cannot be assigned individually:
"After a thorough and painstaking study in which numerous university personnel were interviewed and external experts consulted, we have reached the conclusion that no one acted in disregard for safety," school president Rev. John Jenkins wrote in an open letter posted on the school's web site.
"Each individual involved based his decisions and actions that day on the best information available at the time and in accord with the procedures that were in place."
Said Notre Dame executive vice president John Affleck-Graves: "What we found is that numerous decisions by many people -- made in good faith on that (day) and even over the course of several years -- played a role in the accident."
The report seemed to specifically absolve head coach Brian Kelly, concluding that he "depends on" other staff members (a directore of football operations, a trainer, etc.) to provide him with accurate weather information.
In line with the above conclusions, Jenkins has confirmed that no one at Notre Dame has been individually disciplined for the failures that led to Sullivan's death. (The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration did fine the school more than $77,000 for "ignoring industry standards" in the incident.)
"The Sullivans entrusted Declan to our care and we failed to keep him safe. We will live with this for the rest of our lives," Jenkins wrote. No will argue otherwise. But without the university issuing so much as a fine in response to an entirely preventable death of a student on their watch, Jenkins will also have to live with what is sure to be a firestorm of continuing criticism.