Notre Dame's student newspaper runs front-page plea: 'Don't make us write obituaries'

The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

(CNN)The University of Notre Dame announced Tuesday it would move to virtual learning, a temporary, two-week shift meant to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Later that day, editorial board members of The Observer -- the student newspaper covering Notre Dame, as well as neighboring Saint Mary's College and Holy Cross College -- held an emergency Zoom meeting. They discussed the school's announcement and the option of temporary remote learning versus going virtual for the entire semester.
An editor spoke up: "I've been thinking about this for a while," the editor said. "About what we're going to do when they make us write obituaries."
      That's how the idea was born. On Friday, The Observer's front page highlighted this plea: "Don't make us write obituaries."
        "We wanted to make the messaging clear that we all have a role to play in keeping the tri-campus community safe," editor-in-chief Maria Leontaras, a senior at St. Mary's, told CNN. "There are more people here than just young students who could possibly recover from the virus."
          In the editorial, the board asked everyone -- students, the administration and faculty -- to do everything in their power to contain the virus.
          "The University administration has largely blamed the COVID-19 outbreak on students attending off-campus parties," the editorial said. "While this isn't entirely misplaced, it has been used to deflect responsibility from the very administrations that insisted they were prepared for us to return to campus."
          If more isn't done, the editorial said, the worst may be still to come.
          "The blame for this does not lie with just one party. We -- as students, faculty, staff and administrators -- need to share responsibility for the outbreak on our hands," the editorial said.
          Notre Dame announced Tuesday that if its efforts to contain the coronavirus don't work, the school will shift to remote learning for the rest of the semester.
          The school has seen more than 300 confirmed cases of the virus since the beginning of the month. In Tuesday's video announcement to students, university president Rev. John I. Jenkins called the spike "very serious."
          "For your sake, the sake of our community, and for continuing our semester on campus, please observe health protocols," he said. "Avoid behavior that puts yourself or others at risk."
          But Leontaras said she and other editors would like to see more transparency from the university, like how many students are in quarantine, for example.
          Colleges and universities across the United States are dealing with similar problems as they reopen, with some seeing hundreds of coronavirus cases in just a week or two of classes.
            The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill canceled in-person classes after just one week, after cases ballooned. University employees have filed a class action lawsuit against the UNC System, alleging unsafe workplace conditions because of Covid-19.
            The Observer's editorial, meanwhile, ended on a sober note. Don't let us write obituaries, it said, but also: "Don't let us write yours."