• John Kador

Regret Vs. Apology: The President of Notre Dame University Regrets

John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame University, attended the Covid19 super-spreader event that was the White House announcement of Judge Amy Coney Barret.

Photographs of an unmasked Jenkins sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with others, shaking hands during the ceremony at the White House drew immediate criticism from students who had orders, on pain of explusion, to reject the type of conduct Jenkins participated in.

Jenkins (center) with President Trump and others.


No fewer than eleven attendees of the White House event subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus, including the Rev. Jenkins.

In a public letter to students, faculty, and staff Notre Dame President. Jenkins issued a letter. Almost all media called it an apology. It technically wasn’t. It was an expression of regret. His letter would have been stronger had it invoked the A-word. It was doomed to be ineffective.

Indeed, Jenkins has come under fire from Notre Dame students calling for his resignation. Jenkins failed in his letter because he regretted the wrong thing. His regret was over an error in judgment. His more damaging offense was hypocrisy. Nor did his letter recognize his error in not wearing a mask.

This is Jenkin’s public statement in full. As you read the letter, mentally substitute “I apologize” each time he expresses regret. You be the judge.

A Message from Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.: I regret my error of judgment in not wearing a mask 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.

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