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Notre Dame president’s stern letter to students who stormed field met with reminders of his own COVID diagnosis

There’s a famous saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” and it’s probably ringing through Notre Dame’s campus.

The University of Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John L. Jenkins, sent a letter to the Notre Dame student body Sunday night reprimanding them for storming the field after the Fighting Irish’s double-overtime upset of No. 1 Clemson. And because it’s how the internet works, people didn’t waste any time in pointing out that Jenkins himself hadn’t been a staunch follower of safe COVID-19 protocols. 

Before we get into those critiques, here’s the full letter, which lays out end-of-semester testing protocols before students return to their home communities along with the punishments for not showing up at a scheduled COVID-19 test.

Jenkins was an advocate over the summer for bringing students back to campus. He wrote in a New York Times op-ed in May that that college had “a moral obligation to not be crippled by fear.” But in October, Jenkins was mired in his own coronavirus controversy.

The Notre Dame president attended a late September reception at the White House for then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who had taught at Notre Dame Law School. Jenkins was pictured at the event not wearing a mask, which was a common theme at that reception. Then in early October, Jenkins himself tested positive for COVID-19. No reports indicated for sure where Jenkins had received the virus, but the combination of circumstances led to protests on Notre Dame’s campus. 

That’s what made Jenkins’ Sunday evening letter ring hollow to those around the country (with some calling for Jenkins’ resignation even before the letter that went out Sunday night).

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