University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame President Apologizes for Not Wearing Mask at Amy Coney Barrett Nomination

Photos and videos showing Jenkins not wearing a mask and shaking hands with others at the event surfaced on social media

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins on Monday sent a letter to the campus community, apologizing for not wearing a mask and social distancing during Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court Justice nomination ceremony at the White House.

Photos and videos showing Jenkins not wearing a mask and shaking hands with others at the event Saturday surfaced on social media, prompting criticism on social media.

In his letter sent to students, staff and faculty Monday evening, Jenkins said he believed it was important to represent Notre Dame at the ceremony as Barrett attended Notre Dame Law School and is a professor at the university.

Jenkins explained that when he arrived at the White House, he and others underwent a rapid COVID-19 test, and once they had all tested negative, they were told it was safe to remove their masks.

"I failed to lead by example, at a time when I’ve asked everyone else in the Notre Dame community to do so," he stated. "I especially regret my mistake in light of the sacrifices made on a daily basis by many, particularly our students, in adjusting their lives to observe our health protocols."

After returning to campus, Jenkins said he consulted the Notre Dame Wellness Center, and out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with university protocols, he decided to quarantine.

The full letter from Jenkins is listed below:

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

I know many of you have read about the White House ceremony I recently attended.  I write to express my regret for certain choices I made that day and for failing to lead as I should have. 

Last Saturday morning I received, on very short notice, an invitation to attend the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court.  It was important, I believed, that I represent the University at this historic event to support a faculty colleague and alumna of Notre Dame who is greatly respected by academic and judicial peers, revered by her students and cherished by her friends. 

When I arrived at the White House, a medical professional took me to an exam room to obtain a nasal swab for a rapid COVID-19 test.  I was then directed to a room with others, all fully masked, until we were notified that we had all tested negative and were told that it was safe to remove our masks.  We were then escorted to the Rose Garden, where I was seated with others who also had just been tested and received negative results.

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.  I failed to lead by example, at a time when I’ve asked everyone else in the Notre Dame community to do so.  I especially regret my mistake in light of the sacrifices made on a daily basis by many, particularly our students, in adjusting their lives to observe our health protocols.

After returning to campus, I consulted the Notre Dame Wellness Center and was advised to monitor carefully and report any COVID-19 symptoms.  In an abundance of caution, I have decided also to quarantine in accordance with University protocols. 

Thank you for your continued efforts during this semester, and for your understanding.  

In Notre Dame, 

Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C.