Four years in review: 2017-2021
Observer Staff Report | Friday, May 21, 2021
Tri-campus suspends in-person classes due to coronavirus pandemic — March 11, 2020
On March 11, 2020, 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 While Saint Mary’s students were originally allowed to return to live in their residence halls, the option was revoked on March 13 except for students who received special permission.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, prorating 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 provided grants to students to cover a partial room and board refund.
At Notre Dame, the 253 students who were still living in on-campus residences were instructed to return to their permanent homes as quickly as possible. On March 30, Jenkins announced commencement for the Notre Dame class of 2020 would be held virtually.
8 students, 1 rector lost over four years.
In 2017, Notre Dame lost two students. First-year law student Travis McElmurry, who was dual-enrolled in 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, 2017, 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, remembering his love for music, philosophy and 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, as designer of the Stanford flag and as a resident assistant. His friends remember his strong sense of humility and his hardworking nature.
In 2020, the tri-campus community lost four students. On Jan. 24, senior Annrose Jerry was found dead in St. Mary’s Lake after she had been reported missing three days prior. A member of the Folk Choir, her friends remember Jerry 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.
On Oct. 24, two Notre Dame first-year students were killed and one sophomore was injured after being struck by a car on Ironwood Rd. shortly after 4 a.m. The two first-years were Valeria Espinel of Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Olivia Laura Rojas of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Espinel was a resident of Badin Hall and friends fondly remembered how she took advantage of every day. Rojas lived in Cavanaugh Hall and was remembered for being a loyal friend above all else.
In 2021, Notre Dame lost one student. In an email sent April 2, the University announced the death of graduate student Majd “Jude Ash” al-Shoufi. A native of the United Arab Emirates and a doctoral candidate in the psychology and peace studies departments, al-Shoufi was also a peace and human rights activist with experience working with trauma-inflicted communities and refugees.
Majors headlines over the past 4 years
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.
Jan Cervelli resigns as President of Saint Mary’s, files civil suit against College — Oct. 5, 2018
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.
Columbus Murals to no longer be on full display — Jan. 20, 2019
On Jan. 20, 2019, 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.
Law professor Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to Supreme Court — Oct. 26, 2020
A Notre Dame Law School alumna, Amy Coney Barrett served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and worked as a law professor when she was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump. Coney Barrett was confirmed by a 52-48 vote in the U.S. Senate, and thus filled the seat left vacant after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg the previous month. Coney Barrett is the first justice on the Supreme Court to attend Notre Dame Law School. Following her confirmation, hundreds of students rallied both for and against her appointment.
Joe Biden elected President of the United States — Nov. 7, 2020
After a contentious election cycle during a raging pandemic, Biden was officially declared the winner of the 2020 election on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. Biden made history by receiving the most votes of any U.S. presidential candidate ever. His vice president, Kamala Harris, also made history by becoming the first woman of color to hold the position. Students across the tri-campus participated in dialogue on the election and voted with mail-in ballots to ensure their voice was heard.
University decides to close down Zahm Hall — March 15, 2021
On the evening of March 15, 2021, residents of Zahm Hall were informed through a Zoom webinar and a subsequent email that Zahm would be disbanded. The University cited lack of adherence to COVID testing protocols in the dorm, incidents of vandalism and concerns about the dorm’s culture and conduct as some of the reasons the dorm was to be closed. Zahm will serve as transitional housing for the foreseeable future, with Sorin residents residing in the building for the 2021-2022 academic year while their hall undergoes renovations.