Notre Dame president apologizes for no mask at White House

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The University of Notre Dame’s president has issued an apology for not wearing a mask at a White House event after pictures surfaced online of him shaking hands and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with people without one.

Rev. John I. Jenkins attended the Rose Garden ceremony Saturday for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Jenkins’ letter Monday explained he was there because Barrett is a Notre Dame alumna and law professor. He also pointed out that upon arrival, he and other guests received rapid-response COVID-19 tests, the South Bend Tribune reported.

“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,” Jenkins wrote in his letter to students, faculty and staff. “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 shared an online petition with students on Sunday, calling for the Student Senate to demand that Jenkins resign. They have the minimum 200 signatures needed to present their resolution to the board, which meets 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 said by phone Monday before Jenkins issued his apology.

Masks must be worn on campus at all times when in public spaces, according to Notre Dame’s website.

Weber said she and other students know it’s unlikely Jenkins will resign.

“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,” the junior said.

Weber said Notre Dame has encouraged students to report one another for not following COVID-19 protocols. She said students did the same to Jenkins.

“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.”

Jenkins said he will quarantine in accordance with university procedures.

Jenkins previously apologized for taking a picture in August in close proximity with more than 20 students.