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Notre Dame released its final report on the death of student videographer Declan Sullivan, who died last October when the scissor lift he was standing on to record a football practice fell over in high winds.The report includes a letter from Rev. John I. Jenkins, the university president, who apologizes for the incident and says, “The university, then, is collectively responsible. 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.”
So, how he is accepting that responsibility? Is he quitting? Demoting himself? Personally paying the $77,000 fine handed down by Indiana’s OSHA?
Nope. He’s just sorry.
To say that the University is collectively responsible is really to say that no one is responsible. The truth is that anyone at Notre Dame that has no connection to the football program (and many of those who do), which is the vast majority of the university, were not responsible at all. That includes Jenkins, who wasn’t at practice that day.
Jenkins writes that “no one acted in disregard for safety,” but that can’t possibly be true if Delcan Sullivan is dead. They didn’t mean to harm him. They didn’t think harm would come to him. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t completely disregard his safety by putting him on that scissor lift.
Jenkins also writes “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.” But that can’t possibly be true, because Delcan himself sent a tweet from the lift, saying he was “terrified.”
Anyone standing in that wind that day could have known it was unsafe. Maybe not for the football players and coaches on the ground, but certainly for anyone 30 feet or more in the air.
Simply admitting responsibility is not the same as accepting it. A person died through a completely foreseeable and avoidable accident, yet no one will be punished. That’s not accepting responsibility.
Notre Dame doesn’t want to blame anyone, so they’re blaming no one. And Declan Sullivan’s death goes unanswered.