Notre Dame Joins Purdue in Reopening for Fall Semester

By Susan Jones | May 19, 2020 | 8:27am EDT
The Word of Life Mural is seen on the Hesburgh Library on the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
The Word of Life Mural is seen on the Hesburgh Library on the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

( - "The University of Notre Dame will welcome students back to campus for the 2020-21 fall semester the week of Aug. 10, two weeks earlier than originally scheduled, and will forgo fall break in October and end the semester before Thanksgiving," the University announced on Monday.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the University sent students home in mid-March, telling them to complete the spring semester remotely, online.

“By far the most complex challenge before us is the return of our students to campus for the resumption of classes in the fall semester,” Notre Dame University President Rev. John I. Jenkins wrote.

“Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed. We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet.”

As students, faculty and staff return to campus, they will be tested for COVID-19. Contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation will be required for those who test positive. For others, social distancing and masks will be required, as will "enhanced cleaning of all campus spaces."

“As we adapt to the new normal brought on by the coronavirus, we will do everything we can to provide you with a safe learning, research and working environment,” Father Jenkins wrote, adding that the University will monitor developments and alter plans should a serious outbreak occur, or should it be unable to acquire what is needed for testing."

'You could pay attention to the rules'

Republican Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday that people returning to campus should follow the rules. Braun credited Mitch Daniels, the current president of Purdue University and the former governor of Indiana, with blazing the trail that schools such as Notre Dame are now following.

Purdue announced last week that fall classes would begin on August 24, with fewer breaks in the fall semester to minimize student travel to other parts of the country.

"Mitch has kind of reset the bar for all of higher education, in terms of maybe how to think out of the box," Braun said on Tuesday.

Braun admitted that dormitory life is a challenge when it comes to contagion, unless people follow disease prevention guidelines:

So that's going to be a complication, just like entertainment and hospitality in general. Because they rely on, you know, venues that have people elbow to elbow.

When you look at talking about, like, a smart restart, or what you can do, even in the context of dorms, you could, if you had the discipline, and, of course, at that age, I'm wondering whether that would come into play -- you could pay attention to the rules.

All along, I've said, listen to the experts on the health care end of it. But be a little entrepreneurial, a little agile, when it comes to, like, how would you manage that? I think it's going to be critical because it's welling up across the country that we need to figure out how to do it. And I think deans and university presidents are going to have to do maybe what they haven't done before, and maybe take a cue from Mitch Daniels. We can do both things at once.

My wife had a business in our downtown. The whole downtown was shuttered because essential or non-essential. Many of those businesses didn't have high density traffic. Probably could have stayed in business, if you pay attention to the rules. I believe we can do both at the same time. And if we can't, this is going to belabor itself into the distance future, where the economic carnage will start to surface.

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