University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins faced calls for his resignation due to his “failed leadership amid the COVID-19 crisis.”
Students from the university filed a resolution to the Student Senate in which they called for the president to step down. They argued that his actions at a White House ceremony were a “direct breach of the University’s COVID-19 procedures.”
On September 26, Jenkins and other faculty members attended an event at the White House Rose Garden, where President Donald Trump officially nominated Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Here is footage of fr. Jenkins at the WH SCOTUS event, shown here on the left side of the screen shaking hands with a person who appears to be AG Bill Barr (although I am not certain of that). pic.twitter.com/iVT2NMceLj
— Jack Jenkins (@jackmjenkins) October 2, 2020
The students cited that the university had been very strict with COVID-19 protocols, restricting travel and imposing social distancing. The school also required all community members to wear masks in public places.
Jenkins, however, failed to observe those rules when he was at the Rose Garden event. He did not wear a mask, was in close proximity to other attendees, and shook hands with others who also did not wear masks.
The students understand that it was necessary for their president to attend, but his actions placed faculty and staff at risk. Students that violate coronavirus safety measures are dismissed from the school, and Jenkins needs to be held to the same standards, they argue.
Error in Judgment
Amid growing criticism, Rev. Jenkins wrote a letter to students, faculty, and staff. He narrated the protocols implemented in the event which included a nasal swab test. He also explained that the guests were “fully masked” until they were informed that they tested negative and it was safe to remove their mask.
After the ceremony, however, multiple attendees tested positive, including Jenkins and President Trump.
Jenkins expressed regret at his “error in judgment” when he took off his mask and shook hands. He also admitted that he “failed to lead by example, at a time when I’ve asked everyone else in the Notre Dame community to do so.”
Jenkins has placed himself in quarantine “in an abundance of caution.”
Student Senate Staves off Resignation Calls
In addition a resolution calling for Jenkins to step down, the students also created a petition. On October 2, Notre Dame’s Student Senate rejected the petition via majority vote. Senate rules state that a petition must be discussed in the Senate when it reaches 200 signatures. The petitioners gathered 213.
The petitioners argued that Jenkins willfully chose to break protocol, citing a report that Notre Dame Dean of Law School G. Marcus Cole was commended for wearing a mask and going on quarantine.
The student senate quashed the petition, stating that it was an “extreme” measure. They would rather issue an official “statement of disapproval.” The parliamentary body did agree to further discourse and dialogue on the matter, which they scheduled the following week.
Jenkins is no longer the only college president who may have contracted the coronavirus at a public gathering, as Florida State University President John Thrasher and his wife have been confirmed positive after attending the school’s football game against rival Jacksonville State.