Year in Review: 2020-2021
Observer Staff Report | Friday, May 21, 2021
Notre Dame commits to reopening and announces initial protocols — May 26, 2020
In May, University President Fr. John Jenkins authored an opinion in the New York Times, taking a firm stance in favor of reopening Notre Dame in the fall with some changes, such as bringing students back two weeks earlier than usual, eliminating fall break, and ending the semester before Thanksgiving. Soon after, in June, the University announced initial protocols, which included testing, quarantine and contact-tracing procedures, more frequent cleaning, mask mandates in shared spaces, socially distanced classrooms and daily health checks.
President Katie Conboy begins first year in office — June 1, 2020
Over the summer, College president Katie Conboy began her tenure as Saint Mary’s 14th president. During Conboy’s time at the College, she has engaged in conversations about racial justice, introduced Notre Dame Campus Dining as the College’s new dining services provider, established the Office for Student Equity and announced plans for a symposium on sexual assault in April 2022.
Following an initial COVID spike, classes move online during a two-week pause — Aug. 18, 2020
As COVID-19 cases in the first week of classes approached 200, Fr. Jenkins announced a two-week pause to slow the spread of the virus on campus and avoid sending students home. Since most new cases were traced to off-campus gatherings, on-campus students were restricted from leaving campus, and gatherings of more than 10 were prohibited. Classes were suspended until Sept. 2, 2020 but resumed thereafter. As cases continued to climb, The Observer published an editorial calling for better protocols and more responsibility from both administrators and students.
Notre Dame students bond over Library Lawn — Sept. 8, 2020
In an effort to create more outdoor spaces for students to safely socialize during COVID-19, the University organized Library Lawn, a place for students to gather complete with comfortable chairs, fire pits and a stage for various performances and events. Library Lawn and the accompanying South Lawn frequently offered students free s’mores or food trucks. When students returned to campus in the winter months for spring semester, the Library Lawn and South Lawn were temporarily replaced by the North and South Lodges.
University sponsored quarantine and isolation results in varied experiences — Sept. 9, 2020
Following the initial surge in COVID cases that resulted in a two-week suspension of in-person classes, students in the University’s quarantine and isolation locations shared a range of experiences regarding their time in quarantine. Students commonly complained about a lack of communication from the University. Other complaints included difficulty receiving meals and trouble reporting symptoms and scheduling COVID tests.
Students permitted to attend football games — Sept. 12, 2020
The University allowed students to attend home football games, but the student section looked a little different this year. Instead of the normal group of students crowded in one corner of the stadium, students were assigned socially distanced seating in various sections around the stadium, sitting with their roommate or another student. No tailgates appeared on campus, but students found ways to celebrate the football season with lawn games and dining hall meals. The historic season began with a 27-13 win over Duke and culminated in a Rose Bowl appearance against Alabama.
University President Fr. John Jenkins tests positive for COVID-19 — Oct. 2, 2020
On Oct. 2, 2020, vice president of public affairs and communications Paul Browne announced University President Fr. John Jenkins tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement came while Jenkins self-quarantined following his trip to the White House to attend law professor Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Jenkins faced backlash from the campus community and received extensive media coverage.
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. Nominated by former President Donald Trump and confirmed by a 52-48 vote in the U.S. Senate, Barrett filled the vacant seat after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was the first justice on the Supreme Court to attend Notre Dame Law School. Following her confirmation, hundreds of students rallied both in support of and against her appointment.
Students storm field following Notre Dame’s historic victory over Clemson — Nov. 7, 2020
Following Notre Dame football’s 47-40 double overtime win over No. 1 ranked Clemson, students rushed the field, eliciting mixed reactions from community members and garnering national attention. After the field storming, St. Joseph County deputy health officer Dr. Mark Fox cited off-campus social gatherings as a larger health concern than the storming. Fr. Jenkins took a similar route, sending a letter to the student body expressing his disappointment in the weekend’s off-campus gatherings.
Joe Biden elected President — Nov. 7, 2020
After a contentious election cycle during a raging pandemic, Biden was officially declared the winner of the 2020 election Nov. 7. Biden made history by receiving the most votes of any presidential candidate in history. His vice president, Kamala Harris, 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 sent in mail-in ballots to ensure their voice was heard.
University disbands Zahm House — March 15, 2021
On the evening of March, 15, 2021, residents of Zahm House were informed via Zoom and email that Zahm would be disbanded. The University cited lack of adherence to COVID testing protocols in the residence hall, incidents of vandalism and concerns about the dorm’s culture and conduct as several of the reasons for why the dorm was to be closed. Zahm will serve as transitional housing for the foreseeable future, with Sorin College residents residing in the building for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Tri-campus students receive vaccines — March 23, 2021
Soon after the state of Indiana made anyone over the age of 16 eligible for the vaccine, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s organized mass vaccination clinics on campus. Once 90% of the Notre Dame undergraduate body received the first vaccine, the University eased some protocols, as Fr. Jenkins formerly announced, eliminating the mask requirement outdoors in groups of less than 25, reinstalling basketball rims, allowing inter-hall visitors and expanding recreational activities. Despite the high level of vaccination, some students and faculty objected to the vaccine requirement announced for fall 2021.
Vice president for student affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding steps down — April 29, 2021
The University announced that Erin Hoffmann Harding will step down from her position as vice president for student affairs at the end of the semester in May. She will return to McKinsey & Company, the firm where she began her career, as a member of the education practice. While at Notre Dame, Hoffmann Harding helped create the Moreau First-Year experience program, established the Office of Student Enrichment and implemented the GreeNDot program. Fr. Jenkins assured the student senate that the University will prioritize a new vice president who shows commitment to seeking student input, especially from students of color and LGBTQ students.
Saint Mary’s hosts first ever Smick Rally — May 11, 2021
Student leaders in Student Government Association (SGA), Student Diversity Board (SDB), Residence Hall Association (RHA) and Student Activities Board (SAB) hosted the inaugural Smick Rally to show support for Saint Mary’s students and reclaim the definition of the word. The event followed the release of emails written by members of Zahm House in the 2019-2020 academic year, which used derogatory language toward students of the College.