Update Following the President's Address to Students

Facilities

Dear Notre Dame undergraduate, graduate, and professional students,

The spread of the coronavirus on our campus has been swift and concerning. As Father Jenkins indicated, we have implored our campus community to observe the best prevention practices advised by medical experts and made extensive modifications to campus operations. While most community members have complied admirably, the consequences of lapses in our health and safety practices are clear. Failing to adhere to mask wearing and physical distancing at all times has resulted in significant transmission.

We have consistently reiterated that we must adapt to changing conditions. Due to the growth in cases of COVID-19, primarily among off-campus undergraduate students, our ability to offer a safe on-campus experience this semester is in serious jeopardy. This letter contains information about how our campus will pause in response.

Course Instruction

Classes will continue virtually, but in person instruction for undergraduate students is suspended until at least Wednesday, Sept. 2, and in person classes for graduate and professional students are suspended until at least Monday, Aug. 24. While we hope these and other slowing actions will flatten the curve of COVID-19 transmission, we will monitor the situation closely each day to see if further action is needed.

Health and Safety Modifications

  • Masks must now be worn on campus at all times and in all places (both outside and inside), except by students in their assigned residence hall rooms.
  • Physical distancing must be more vigilant, both inside and outside. The tents on campus will now be monitored by University staff.
  • Knowing that socialization outside of households has contributed to spread, any gathering must observe mask wearing, ensure physical distancing, and is now limited to 10 people or less unless indicated below.
  • Students who have returned from isolation must still adhere to all University health and safety guidelines.

On-campus Student Experience

  • Undergraduate students who live on campus should minimize non-essential activity for at least the next two weeks, and remain on Notre Dame’s campus at all times. No individuals will be allowed in residence halls unless they are assigned a bed or are working in the hall. Hall meetings and programming must be virtual, and residents must adhere to common space occupancy limits. Residents must wear masks at all times and in all spaces outside of their assigned rooms.
  • Mass will continue to be offered as scheduled in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and for residence hall communities with all health and safety protocols in place.
  • Duncan Student Center and LaFortune Student Center will modify hours to reflect this slowing of campus. These buildings will be open for remote class participation and quiet study. The Smith Center for Recreational Sports, the Rockne Memorial, and hall fitness rooms will be closed during this period.
  • While dining halls will be open, students can only dine at Notre Dame and not at Saint Mary’s College or Holy Cross College. Several retail outlets will close. LaFortune Student Center restaurants, Legends, and Rohr’s will remain open but food must be ordered through GrubHub and carried out. Students should eat exclusively either outside at a strict physical distance or in their residence hall rooms. Because some positive cases have resulted from sharing meals and masks cannot be worn while eating, more care must be taken to eat at an appropriate physical distance.
  • Student clubs and organizations may only meet remotely, and no departmental or hall programming will be offered in person. The Student Activities Fair is postponed.

Off-campus Undergraduate Students

  • The vast majority of the University’s COVID-19 positive cases have been diagnosed in off-campus undergraduate students.
  • Transmission has occurred due to parties, dining in restaurants or bars, and even in cars where occupants were unmasked. The common thread among cases is a lack of mask wearing and physical distancing.
  • It is imperative that off-campus undergraduate students minimize non-essential activity as well. These students should not come to campus at this time unless an exception is granted.
  • Like on-campus students, off-campus undergraduates should not gather inside with anyone who does not live in their apartment unit or home.

Addressing Violations

  • It is imperative that students, faculty, and staff call one another to accountability for lapses in mask wearing, physical distancing, or gathering together outside of the guidelines above. University authorities cannot be in all spaces at all times. Compliance depends on all community members having the courage to call others to behavior that protects us all.
  • The University, however, will also increase monitoring of campus activity, particularly near tents and at night.
  • Community members, whether students, faculty, or staff, should report unsafe behavior with specific addresses, names, and details using this form. We have received several actionable reports to date that have been referred to the University conduct process.
  • Students found responsible, especially for hosting unsafe gatherings, will face severe disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the University.

Medical Care

  • The number of cases we experienced in the first week of classes far exceeded our estimates, and it stressed the new systems we put in place to test and care for our community members.
  • Despite dedicated staff working at all hours, we were not able to respond to all student calls in the personal way we pride ourselves on at Notre Dame. Some students in isolation and quarantine units also were not cared for as promptly or as thoroughly as we would have hoped. We deeply regret any inconvenience or worry these gaps in care caused our students, especially at a time they were feeling ill.
  • Through efforts of leaders across the University, we have modified several processes and added substantial staff to our efforts to respond to this initial spread of the virus. We successfully automated and significantly increased testing yesterday at the Stadium Testing Center. We added staff to respond to calls at University Health Services, and we added additional staff to augment the efforts of the COVID-19 Response Unit’s contact tracers who support students in quarantine and isolation. Our improvement efforts will continue until our care is as responsive and thorough as we and you expect.

Closing

This virus is formidable, and the health and safety of you, our faculty and staff, and the local community remains our top priority. These are difficult times, so please be attentive to both your physical and emotional well-being. Notre Dame’s desire to offer an on-campus experience stands at great risk, yet we are here to support one another. Preventing further spread requires urgent action from each of us. This shared commitment and the success of these measures will determine whether we can remain together as we hope.

In Notre Dame,

Erin Hoffmann Harding
Vice President for Student Affairs

Mike Seamon
Vice President for Campus Safety and University Operations

Originally published by John Slott at here.nd.edu on August 18, 2020.