Notre Dame professor sues student publication over coverage of her abortion-rights work

The entrance to the University of Notrre Dame is seen in this 2020 AP photo.

SOUTH BEND (AP) — A University of Notre Dame professor has filed a defamation lawsuit against a student-run publication over news coverage of her abortion-rights work.

The case is raising questions about press freedom and academic freedom at one of the nation’s preeminent Catholic universities.

Tamara Kay’s suit, filed in May, alleges falsehoods in two articles published by The Irish Rover in the past academic year. The Rover defended its reporting as true in a motion filed earlier this month to dismiss the case, under a law meant to protect people from frivolous lawsuits over matters of public concern.

Kay, a professor of global affairs and sociology, asks for unspecified punitive damages after she “has been harassed, threatened, and experienced damage to her residential property” and “continues to experience mental anguish” because of the two articles.

Published in October and March after public events in which Kay participated, the articles cover her remarks about her support for abortion rights. The lawsuit alleges that the articles contained “false and defamatory” information, arguing that they misinterpreted a sign on her door about helping students access healthcare and denying two quotes about academic freedom and her work at a Catholic institution.

“The note on my door referenced sexual assault, and the inadequate resources and support for student survivors at Notre Dame,” Kay told The Associated Press via email.

She added that she had asked the Rover’s faculty advisors to retract or correct the story, and that Notre Dame officials refused to intervene on her behalf.

“All of this is utterly devastating,” Kay said. She said her public writing and public speech “are all fair game for reporting and critique, as long as that reporting is accurate. It has not been.”