Notre Dame students on Thursday censured their president, Fr. John Jenkins, who tested positive for Covid-19 after appearing without a mask during the White House Rose Garden ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
“There must be appropriate consequences for all actions in violation of University policy whether the perpetrator is a member of the student body, faculty, staff, or administration…” the resolution states.
Jenkins’ behavior has outraged some members of the Notre Dame community, with more than 200 students signing a petition calling for his resignation after he was seen without a mask and shaking hands with other unmasked attendees at the Sept. 26 ceremony for Barrett, a Notre Dame faculty member and alumna.
The ceremony is now considered a likely superspreader event after multiple participants including President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the virus.
Now, Jenkins has not only been reprimanded by students, but he faces possible action from the Faculty Senate. They voted on Tuesday night 21-20 to postpone action on a resolution of no confidence in Jenkins, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
Jenkins last week apologized for his behavior, saying he regretted his “error of judgment in not wearing a mask” and that he decided to quarantine “in an abundance of caution.” The Student Senate on Oct. 1 voted down a resolution for Jenkins’ resignation, according to The Observer student newspaper.
The following day, he announced that he had tested positive for Covid-19, calling it “a good reminder for me and perhaps for all of how vigilant we need to be.” A university spokesperson did not respond Thursday when asked for an update on Jenkins’ condition.
Ashton Weber, one of the students who drafted the resolution for Jenkins’ resignation, on Tuesday wrote in The Observer that Jenkins’ diagnosis “strengthened” her belief that he should resign.
She noted that Jenkins was pictured at the Rose Garden event next to Marcus Cole, dean of the Notre Dame Law school, who was wearing a mask. “This means that Jenkins had an example of how a good leader may behave seated next to him and still concluded that he was beyond the rules he has asked the rest of the campus community to follow,” she wrote.
In May, Jenkins penned a New York Times op-ed, explaining why reopening was worth the risk. Last month, the university halted in-person classes for two weeks amid a rash of cases. The university also withdrew in July as the host site of the first presidential debate.
The resolution that passed on Thursday says the Student Senate accepts Jenkins’ apology but recognizes “the valid frustrations of the student body in response to this incident.” They ask Jenkins to review elements of Covid-19 leadership training and request that university administrators discuss certain Covid-19 policies with student leaders.
Student Patrick O. Lee, among the resolution’s sponsors, said the campus community was “a little bit upset” after seeing the photos of Jenkins, but not “so enraged as to call for his resignation.”
“The sentiment was, we’re a little miffed because you know, we’ve been working all semester to keep ourselves safe and keep each other safe, and we’re making these sacrifices and we would hope that he would hold himself to the same standard, regardless of whether or not there was testing,” he said.
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