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Notre Dame President Maskless At White House, Students Demand Resignation

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Adam Barnes Contributor
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University of Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins apologized to students after being seen maskless with other guests at the Supreme Court nomination ceremony of Amy Coney Barrett in the White House Rose Garden on Sept. 26.

Jenkins’ apology letter to students explained that he was there to support the nomination of a university alumna and professor, and he said that all attendees submitted to rapid COVID-19 testing, the Associated Press reported.

“I know many of you have read about the White House ceremony I recently attended. I write to express my regret for certain choices I made that day and for failing to lead as I should have,” Jenkins wrote.

“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. I failed to lead by example, at a time when I’ve asked everyone else in the Notre Dame community to do so.”

Notre Dame students Ashton Weber, Makira Walton and Patrick Kelly-Dutile started an online petition to the student senate for Jenkins’ resignation, per the AP report. The petition has earned the necessary 200 signatures needed to present it to the board Thursday.

“To see him appear on a national stage not following the rules he’s asked us to follow is frustrating and a bit hypocritical,” Weber told the AP.

“I think the most important part of this is to send the message that his actions are unacceptable and not a good demonstration of leadership, especially when he made us a national example with reopening,” Weber added.

Weber told the AP that the university advises students to report others they find in violation of social distancing policies. (RELATED: Baylor Says Students Who Don’t Follow COVID-19 Rules Could Face Expulsion, Other Punishments)

“They have very much stepped up their disciplinary procedures for students who don’t comply, which is another layer to this,” Weber said. “… That’s another reason we wanted to have a significant mention of him breaking the same rules students have been punished for breaking.” (RELATED: Ohio State Suspended Over 200 Students Over COVID Rules Before Classes Began)

Notre Dame announced Sept. 28 that 18 football players tested positive for COVID-19, but practices would resume Sept. 30, ESPN reported. Head Coach Brian Kelly said the source of the outbreak could be traced to a game against South Florida Sept.19.

“Throughout our entire time together, we had not had one meal where we sat down together,” Kelly said. “Everything was grab and go. We get into our game situation where we have pregame meal together, and that cost us. Big. We had somebody who was asymptomatic, and it spread like wildfire throughout our meeting area where we were eating and then it got guys in contact tracing.”