University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins is facing a student petition pushing for him to resign and a possible “no confidence” by the faculty following his Covid-19 diagnosis.
Students are outraged at Jenkins after he was seen attending the nomination ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett at the White House Rose Garden on September 26 without wearing a mask and not adhering to social distancing practices.
More than 200 students have signed a petition calling for Jenkins to resign, saying, “Fr. Jenkins’ public displays of disregard for public health directly contradict his commitment to the Notre Dame community, directly endanger the safety of students, faculty and staff, and also cast a negative light on the Notre Dame community as a whole.”
Two days before Jenkins’ diagnosis, an editorial titled “Frankly, this is embarrassing” was published in Notre Dame’s student-run newspaper lashing out at Jenkins for breaking the rules he expects Notre Dame students to uphold.
“Jenkins leaving South Bend to flagrantly disobey his own rules while the community he is supposed to lead is suffering creates a sense of separation between himself and everyone else,” the Notre Dame Observer editorial board wrote. “A ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality is not one a University president should have in a time of crisis.”
After Jenkins announced he had tested positive for Covid-19 on October 2, he wrote a public apology to the university community.
“I regret my error of judgment in not wearing a mask during the ceremony and by shaking hands with a number of people in the Rose Garden,” Jenkins wrote. “I failed to lead by example, at a time when I’ve asked everyone else in the Notre Dame community to do so.”
On Tuesday night, Notre Dame’s Faculty Senate debated a “no confidence” resolution of Jenkins, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education and The New York Times. The Faculty Senate voted 21-20 to postpone further action on the resolution.
But the apology isn’t enough for students, who noted that this is the second time Jenkins has had to apologize to the student body since the fall semester began. In early August, Jenkin issued an apology after he was seen engaging with students on campus and not following social distancing protocol.
Notre Dame saw an early spike in Covid-19 cases on campus when students returned, causing Jenkins to move all classes online for two weeks in mid-August. Since then, cases have decreased, down to 45 active cases, according to the school’s online Covid-19 dashboard.