March 18, 2020
Dear Students and Parents,
On Sunday, March 15th the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new recommendation that no gatherings with 50 people or more be held for the next eight weeks. Informed by this recommendation as well as conversations with state and local health officials, and in consultation with other University leaders, I have decided to extend the suspension of in-person classes at Notre Dame to the end of the semester. Distance learning for our students will continue until then.
I deeply regret having come to this conclusion, but it would be impractical and irresponsible to bring our students back to campus before the end of the semester. I urge faculty and students to do the very best they can through distance learning.
In a recent message, I pledged to our senior class that we will do everything possible, within the bounds of health considerations, to bring them back to campus to spend time with one another and to celebrate Commencement with their family and friends. We still plan to hold Commencement, as scheduled, on May 17th, a date that is outside of the eight weeks covered by the CDC guidelines. We recognize, however, that it may be necessary to change those plans.
I recently spoke with student government and class officers of the Class of 2020. As I said to them, we hope to know more in the next two to four weeks and, if we are not able to hold Commencement on May 17th, we will explore with academic and student leaders the possibility of holding Commencement at another date later in the summer. We will, of course, keep everyone informed.
Now, with the cancellation of in-person classes for the rest of the semester, the University will pro-rate room and/or board charges for the spring semester and make the appropriate refund to your student account. I thank our Notre Dame families for their patience and understanding as we address this issue and the scores of others that have emerged in the wake of this pandemic.
We are also working on ways that student belongings may be retrieved from your on-campus residences in a safe and orderly fashion. Students will receive a message on this from the Office of Student Affairs soon.
While the focus of this letter has been thus far on our undergraduate students, we also recognize the profound impact of these necessary decisions on graduate and professional school students and post-doctoral scholars. Additional information for these groups will be forthcoming from the relevant deans.
The Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend made the difficult decision yesterday to suspend the celebration of public Masses in the Diocese. Consequently, Masses will not be open to the public at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. However, the Congregation of Holy Cross will continue to celebrate Mass daily and the University will make it available via live-streaming Mondays through Saturdays and via Catholic TV on Sundays. I hope some of you will be able to join us remotely.
We in the Notre Dame community, along with nearly everyone around the world, are enduring a difficult, uncertain and anxious time. I thank you for your patience and understanding as we sort through the many challenges and decisions that must be made. I know that, in addition to the many inconveniences of the current moment, many of you struggle with worries about the health and economic security of family and friends. Let us continue to strengthen one another by mutual support and prayer.
In Notre Dame,
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.