Revolt escalates over Notre Dame president’s admitted ‘poor judgement’ in ignoring university guidelines at White House ‘super spreader’ event

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Rev. John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame, center, attended a reception inside the White House without wearing a mask. Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, [Notre Dame’s] president and a 66-year-old Catholic priest with degrees in philosophy and divinity, was among the first to invite students back for dorm life, intercollegiate sports and face-to-face classes, arguing in a New York Times Op-Ed in May that the college had a moral obligation to not be crippled by fear.

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But all the humility in the world might not have spared Father Jenkins from the storm of protest he now faces over the latest news from South Bend: that he not only violated his own health rules — appearing without a mask at a White House reception last month for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Supreme Court nominee and former Notre Dame Law School professor — but also is infected with the coronavirus himself.

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Students have petitioned for his resignation, angry over what they consider his hypocrisy as well as the rising tide of infections on campus. Others have reported him to a coronavirus hotline for violating his own mask mandate. The student newspaper called the affair “embarrassing” in an editorial. And the faculty senate stopped one vote short on [October 6] of considering a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

“I haven’t seen people this outraged in my whole career and I’ve been here since 2001,” Eileen Hunt Botting, a political science professor, said.

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