2016-2020: Four years in review
Observer Staff Report | Friday, May 15, 2020
Jan Cervelli resigns as President of Saint Mary’s, files civil suit against College
On Oct. 5, 2018, Jan Cervelli resigned from her position as president of Saint Mary’s — just under two years after her official inauguration on Nov. 12, 2016. In an Observer article from Oct. 8, 2018, Board of Trustees chair Mary Burke said it was “[Cervelli’s] decision alone to resign.”
Cervelli filed a civil suit against Saint Mary’s on March 12, 2019, stating members of the College’s Board of Trustees pressured her to resign and did not honor a settlement agreement that would allow Cervelli to stay at Saint Mary’s as a tenured professor.
On March 22, 2019, the College filed a counterclaim response to Cervelli’s lawsuit. Cervelli filed a response to their counterclaim on April 4.
This past spring semester though Cervelli taught four courses at the College — a Design Lab I course within the Art Department and three classes within the College’s Environmental Studies program.
7 students, 1 rector lost in four years
In 2016, Notre Dame lost two students. Third-year law student Karabo Moleah, 26, died March 31 in Philadelphia while studying in the Law School’s Washington D.C. program. His friends remember his questioning nature and intelligence.
On March 9, junior Theresa Sagartz was found dead in her off-campus residence from natural causes related to a chronic medical condition. A third-generation member of the Notre Dame community, her friends and family remember her as adventurous, self-assured and generous with her time.
In 2017, Notre Dame lost two students. First-year law student Travis McElmurry, who was dual-enrolled at the business school, died March 12 in his off-campus residence. His friends said he had an easygoing nature and loved his dog.
On March 31, former undergraduate student Edward Lim died at his home in Cincinnati. His friends said Lim had made a significant impact during his time at the University and remembered his love for music, philosophy and the Notre Dame Chorale.
Notre Dame lost one rector in 2018. On Feb. 7, Sister Mary McNamara, the rector of Breen-Phillips (BP) Hall, died from complications related to a stroke. Sister McNamara’s loved ones said she found her dream job as the rector of BP. She was remembered for her sense of humor and her commitment to her ministry.
In 2019, Notre Dame lost one student. Shortly after he graduated, Chris Westdyk died June 3 after a long battle with cancer. Westdyk was very involved in his dorm, Stanford Hall, serving as a two-time Welcome Weekend ambassador, designer of the Stanford flag and a resident assistant. His friends remember his strong sense of humility and his hardworking nature.
In 2020, the tri-campus community lost two students. On Jan 24, senior Annrose Jerry was found dead in St. Mary’s Lake after she was reported missing three days prior. A member of the Folk Choir, her friends remember her for her love of music and her selflessness.
On March 12, Saint Mary’s senior Isabelle Melchor died. Melchor was a global studies major and deeply involved at the College. A professor remembered her as inspirational, saying Melchor was always quick to smile despite her health struggles.
Major headlines in the last four years
Donald Trump elected President of the United States — Nov. 9, 2016
In the early hours of Nov. 9, 2016, Donald Trump officially defeated Hillary Clinton to become the 45th U.S. President. The reactions of students ranged from excitement to shock to fear. In the aftermath of the election, students formed a new student group at the University, We Stand For.
Vice President Mike Pence as 2017 Commencement Speaker prompts walkout — May 21, 2017
Vice President Mike Pence gave the Notre Dame commencement speech on May 21, 2017, prompting approximately 100 graduates to walk out of the ceremony in protest. The walkout was organized by We Stand For, a social-justice oriented student group. Reactions to the walkout were mixed and the event attracted national news coverage.
University announces changes to contraceptive coverage policy — Oct. 27, 2017
The University announced Oct. 27, 2017 it would no longer cover contraceptives through its third-party, government-funded insurer. On Nov. 7, 2017, it reversed these changes and said its third-party insurers would continue to cover contraception. On Feb. 7, 2018, Notre Dame announced it would abandon its third-party coverage and pay for coverage of “simple contraceptives” through its own health plan.
Campus crossroads project completed — Jan. 15, 2018
After four years of construction, the $400 million Campus Crossroads project was completed with the opening of the Duncan Student Center, O’Neill Hall and Corbett Family Hall. The purpose of the project was to centralize every element of campus life in one location and included new classrooms, recreational facilities, meeting rooms and a student center.
Columbus murals to no longer be on full display — Jan. 20, 2019
On Jan. 20, Fr. Jenkins announced Notre Dame would cover the Columbus murals, a series of 19th-century paintings by Italian artist Luigi Gregori on display in the Main Building. The murals, which depict the life and work of Christopher Columbus, were criticized for years for their depiction of Columbus as a savior figure to Native Americans. In a statement to the student body, Jenkins said the murals would soon be covered with a ”woven material,” but that high-resolution photographs of the paintings would eventually be displayed in an environment more conducive to consideration elsewhere on campus.
Polar Vortex: Tri-campus community closes as temperatures near record lows — Jan. 29-31, 2019
The tri-campus community canceled classes when sub-zero temperatures swept the Midwest the week of Jan. 28. Notre Dame closed from 7 p.m. Jan. 29 and reopened 1 p.m. Jan. 31. Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross closed from Jan. 29-31, reopening on Feb. 1. During the vortex, Holy Cross lost power from approximately 6:25 a.m. to noon Jan. 30. Notre Dame experienced a number of pipe bursts and other leaks following the vortex. The last time the tri-campus community closed due to winter weather was Jan. 27-28, 2014.
Notre Dame stops using coal for energy — Oct. 14, 2019
As a direct result of the Comprehensive Sustainability Strategy, a multi-pronged plan for a more sustainable campus initiated by the University in 2015, the campus power plant phased out burning coal a year ahead of schedule. In order to facilitate the transition from coal, a new gas line was built to complement the original line in the power plant, and the oil storage capacity was doubled. In addition, the University elected to invest $113 million in renewable energy projects shortly after announcing the five-year plan to cease burning coal, which included the creation of a hydroelectric plant on St. Joseph River, a geothermal system and a new thermal energy East Plant. The University’s sustainability plan looks almost 50 years in the future, spearheading more projects and initiatives to allow Notre Dame to become carbon neutral by 2050.
University cancels in-person classes, suspends all study abroad programs due to COVID-19 concerns — March 11, 2020
Saint Mary’s extends spring break to March 20, suspends all in-person classes while providing option to return to campus — March 11, 2020
Holy Cross moves to distance learning until April 13 — March 11, 2020
On March 11, Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross announced the suspension of all in-person classes until at least April 13, replacing all courses with virtual teaching and other alternative learning options. All University and College-sponsored international programs were also canceled, and students and U.S.-based faculty were directed to return home as soon as possible. Notre Dame undergraduate residence halls were to remain open only to students approved to remain on campus. While Saint Mary’s students were originally allowed to return to live in their residence halls, the option was revoked on March 13 except for students who received special permission. By March 18, Notre Dame extended the cancellation of classes to the end of the spring semester, pro-rating students for room and board. Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross followed on March 19. Holy Cross announced plans to prorate room and board costs, while Saint Mary’s is providing grants to students to cover a partial room and board refund. At Notre Dame, the 253 students living in on-campus residences were instructed to return to their permanent homes as quickly as possible. Saint Mary’s students who were originally authorized to remain in their rooms. On March 30, Jenkins announced commencement for the Notre Dame class of 2020 will be held virtually, and seniors will be invited back to campus Memorial Day weekend 2021 to celebrate their graduation. Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross plan to hold in-person ceremonies in the fall of 2020.