Notre Dame President and Philosopher Contracts COVID-19 after White House Visit


John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame and member of the univerity’s Department of Philosophy, has contracted COVID-19 after visiting the White House at the end of last month for the ceremony announcing the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

[White House ceremony for the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Photo: Alex Brandon]

Father Jenkins shook hands with others and was not wearing a mask at the ceremony, actions he expressed regret for in a public letter afterwards.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

Since the event took place Sept. 26 in the White House Rose Garden, several attendees, including Father Jenkins, President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Senators Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, and former Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway, have tested positive for COVID-19. Pictures and videos of the event have shown the roughly 150 attendees sitting close to one another, hugging and not wearing masks. Father Jenkins was in attendance with several Notre Dame faculty and administrators. Barrett is an alumna of Notre Dame Law School and taught there from 2002 until being nominated to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017.

Father Jenkins’s diagnosis has received particular attention within the higher education industry, as he was among those college presidents who aggressively pushed for campus reopenings. In a New York Times op-ed in May, Father Jenkins argued that reopening Notre Dame’s campus was safe and “worth the risk.”

Students at Notre Dame have launched a petition calling for Jenkins to resign, and the text of the petition was considered as a resolution by the student Senate. It says:

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.

[Update: this resolution was apparently voted down; see comment from Fritz Warfield, below.]

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