Students Leftward Ho! and Jenkinsgate


Despite the @USCCB continued emphasis on abortion as the preeminent issue for voters, students at @NotreDame supported the aggressively pro-abortion Harris/Biden ticket as strongly as their dominantly secular peers at @Yale… Click To Tweet

We pick up where we left off before the holidays in chronicling events involving politics and public figures bearing on Notre Dame’s Catholic identity. In our last bulletin we described administration and faculty pro-Biden partisanship and faculty opposition to Judge Amy Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination. We now report more developments along these lines together with a COVID-19 imbroglio entangling Father Jenkins and scorching the university. The election itself and its radioactive aftermath are outside our mission, but some university reactions are not, as we will show in a subsequent bulletin.

Student Anti-Barrett Demonstration

Shortly after Barrett’s confirmation, some 350 students gathered on campus to protest. “A large number of faculty [lined] the sidewalk in support.” The signs they carried told their story:

“We need to talk about the elephant in the womb.”
“I like to kiss girls. Deal with it.”
“You can’t pray the gay away.”
“Do I have to pretend to be straight now?”
“My body my choice.”
“Land of the freedom to be LGBT.”
“Here and Queer.”
“My body not your choice.”

Here’s a video of both the demonstration and an overlapping pro-Barrett demonstration of about 60 students. 

Muffett McGraw Joins the Protests

Last month Notre Dame’s storied women’s basketball coach Muffett McGraw joined a South Bend Women’s March opposing Judge Barrett at which Notre Dame adjunct law professor Patricia Hackett spoke.

The Women’s March is pro-abortion and pro-LGBTQIA. 

Adjunct professor Hackett, a ND alumna who is married to another woman, was defeated in her November run for Congress as an openly gay candidate

Student Poll

A student government election mock pre-election survey disclosed a good deal about student political attitudes free of the distortion that might affect a poll taken in the wake of the controversy over Trump’s post-election actions. The poll showed a majority liberal student body and a more than 2 to 1 vote for Biden.

Specifically, students were 54% liberal, 12% moderate, and 34 % conservative. In party affiliation, they were 35.6% Democrat and 25% Republican, with the rest “Independent” or unaffiliated. 

On the election, the gap widened. With 3,499 out of 8,700 eligible students participating – a 40.22% turnout – 66.5% were for Biden/Harris and a scant 29.3% for Trump/Pence. (In Arts and letters, 74% were for Biden.)

In students’ ranking of issues, “Racial Inequality/Law & Order” and “Climate Change” took first and second place. Abortion, declared by United States bishops the “preeminent” issue, came in 4th, and religious liberty didn’t place at all. 

It is interesting, if disquieting, to note that Notre Dame’s 65.5% vote for the Biden pro-abortion anti-religious liberty ticket was virtually identical to Yale students’ 67%. A survey of the 2020 incoming Yale class disclosed that “a majority did not hold particularly strong religious beliefs, if any at all.” 


As has been widely publicized, Father Jenkins’s attendance sans mask at the crowded White House Rose Garden ceremony in which President Trump formally announced his nomination of Judge Barrett triggered feverish faculty denunciation and a call for a no confidence vote by the Faculty Senate.

This extravagant outburst eventually tailed off into a muffled expression of “disappointment” in Jenkins — but what was this outsized assault on Jenkins all about?

The facts are straightforward.

The President invited Father Jenkins to this event to represent the University. He was tested for COVID-19 on arrival, cleared, and told he need not wear a mask. Far the majority did not, although Law School Dean Marcus Cole, seated next to Jenkins, did. There was no social distancing at the outdoor event.

Unhappily, Father Jenkins and ten others contracted COVID-19, a result that received nationwide attention with a recurring spotlight on Father Jenkins’s violation of the rules he had set for students. 

Upon his return to campus, Father apologized in a statement and then, fulsomely, in this video. 

But that wasn’t good enough for many.

Hundreds of students petitioned the Student Senate to call for Jenkins’s resignation; the student newspaper blasted him; and a sizable number of faculty called upon the Faculty Senate for a vote of no confidence. 

The implausible student petition failed, but the faculty challenge was more serious. The no confidence resolution initially fell short by only one vote in the Faculty Senate. The Senate thereupon reconvened, heard another apology from Father Jenkins, and passed a substitute resolution (29-13) accepting his apology and expressing its “disappointment” in his behavior. 

The interesting question is why these faculty pressed for a formal sanction notwithstanding Jenkins’s swift and unqualified confession of personal failure. He is paying a heavy price in humiliation and reduced stature within and without the university. Witness how USA Today’s sports columnist feels free to mock the priest-president of Notre Dame as “Father Super-Spreader.”

We think it plain enough that the faculty campaign for a no-confidence vote was fueled by resentment over Jenkins’s attendance at the White House celebration of the Barrett nomination, which these faculty opposed, by President Trump, whom they abhor. 

Here’s how one of the principal faculty Barrett opponents, Professor Eileen Hunt Botting, described the Rose Garden event:

In what once was a garden of roses, the corrosive love of power drove Barrett and her supporters to worship at the foot of a President who has cynically courted the pro-life lobby only to champion a disastrous pandemic response that has led to over 200,000 American deaths.

The resolution charged Jenkins with violating university policy against travel that is not “essential.” Professor Bolton explained:

We were told to curtail all but the most necessary personal travel.

It is hard to take this seriously. We are speaking of the president of Notre Dame attending the ceremony during which the President of the United States nominated the first Notre Dame figure ever to serve on the Supreme Court. If the President had been Barak Obama and the nominee Ruth Bader Ginsberg, we suspect the faculty motion would have been one of lavish praise rather than harsh denunciation. 

It is instructive also that the faculty Senate member presenting the motion (Kartrina Barron) and the other two faculty members supporting it (Richard Williams and Catherine Bolton) quoted by the Chronicle of Higher Education were all signatories of the statement denouncing Barrett that we described in our last bulletin. 

Jenkinsgate Epilogue

Most, if not all, of our readers will have seen publicity about Notre Dame students storming the football field after the win over Clemson in disregard of COVID-19 prevention rules. There was a tsunami of criticism of students and the administration for its failure to control them. Father Jenkins predictably came in for another round of knocks.

An eye-catching example of a “hair-stand-on-end” blast at Jenkins and the University came from the Washington Post’s sports columnist Sally Jenkins. Titled, “ Notre Dame’s president lacked self-control. Its student body is merely following his example,” the article opened with:

How very Fighting Irish, what a classic mixture of high superiority and low, of guilty expediency, of painted-on purity…. Notre Dame [takes] the gate receipts and then blam[es] spectators for the same uncontrolled passions of their unmasked leaders, while making pale after-the-fact confessions and gestures at discipline.

Rather, it is self-evidently the “uncontrolled passions” of Sally Jenkins that is on display. And predictably, so far as we have seen, neither she nor any news organization other than WNDU reported that, because of the pre-game testing of students, “storming the field did not cause a spike in cases,” according to Dr. Mark Fox, Deputy Health Officer of St. Joseph County.

But, so that we are not ourselves open to accusations of suppressing unwelcome news, we note that in other respects the university did not do as well, at least for a time.

A comprehensive study of 30 universities showed that “the initial outbreak at the University of Notre Dame had superspreading-like effects on its home county” and that it experienced the highest incidence of student infection, with 14.5% of the student body having been infected by the end of the fall semester.

At the same time, the study reported, through aggressive mitigation efforts the university “managed to rapidly decrease the spread [and] contain the virus.”

In sum, while Father Jenkins surely would have been better off had he donned a mask and probably also by not taking premature bows for the university in his well-publicized New York Times editorial describing “how we can restore in-person classes safely,” in the end the university seems to be well positioned to provide students with the benefits of a Notre Dame education to the fullest extent practicable in these troubled times.

And that is a good thing.

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 Let us know what you think about the issues we’ve raised in this bulletin in the comments below. And help to spread the word by sharing this bulletin with others who care about Notre Dame’s Catholic identity. 

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19 Responses to “Students Leftward Ho! and Jenkinsgate”

  1. Did anyone else notice the interesting sequence of Brian Kelly speaking out against California Covid restrictions and his censure by the NCAA for recruiting violations? It seems like he was being disciplined. Very courageous of him to speak out. From Chicago Trib: “I’m not sure we’ll play in the playoffs if parents can’t be there, to be honest with you,” Kelly said Friday during a teleconference. “Why would we play if you can’t have the families at the game? A bowl game? Yeah, we would opt out.” Anyways, my comment is slightly off topic. Great reporting as always. Thank you, Sycamore.

  2. Besides Fr. Miscamble’s excellent books on the soul of Notre Dame and Fr. Hesburgh, I strongly recommend thst you add these to your reading list: “Dark Agenda:The War to Destroy Christian America” by David Horowitz; “Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World” by Arch. Charles Chaput; and “Rules for Retrogrades: Forty Tactics to Defeat the Radical Left” by Timothy and David Gordon. Being informed and prayer are our greatest weapons in this cosmic battle, which now has cast darkness over our beloved Notre Dame.

  3. Daniel Mitchell January 23, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    When I was a student at Notre Dame 1957-1961 all male students and 99% were white middle working class and 99%
    practicing Catholics; it was like life on a different planet. There was no doubt about America being great, we had just won WWII. There was no doubt about the teachings of the Catholic Church. Today these ND multi background students have no solid ground to stand on, everything is up for grabs. There is no right and wrong, evil is an opinion, a political position. Their young unformed minds can not deal with it. Our leaders Church and Civil have become “mush minded” being concerned about public opinion and cash flow. What is my socially correct position by my race, wealth, age, political party, and social tribe of friends. Not what is the ultimate truth of a life well lived. Back then we, now old people, could look to the Catholic Church or our government with total trust and belief in those life well lived principles being the guide. Today lies, hidden agendas, and corruption have popped up everywhere. Even with pedifile priests, for decades, being hidden by the Bishops. Talk about Heresy. And we all just lived through four years of constant media and congressional accusations that our Elected President was a corrupt, evil, person with a corrupt evil family elected with assistance from our hated rival the Russians. How is a young mind to deal with all that? They can not. They are beyond confused and go like lemmings with their groups, and tribes. How to deal with it. I point to the military. I was in the ROTC and when the student soldiers returned junior year from six weeks summer camp they were changed men. Following orders, like it or not, being in dangerous situations constantly solving problems successfully, made a massive difference in their self confidence, stature, personal grooming, and general behavior. I suggest we return to the draft for the youth,
    all men and women. The ego learns to grow in the right circumstances and shrink in the right places. Dan Mitchell BA 1961

  4. Willliam E. Dotterweich January 23, 2021 at 5:04 pm

    For the last fifteen years or so, it has become evident that the Notre Dame’s weakness in area of Catholic Character (or lack of it) lies with the faculty. The stench of rot emanates particularly from the dung pile that is the faculty senate, most of whose members care not a whit about any Catholic Character at Notre Dame, and in fact oppose it.

  5. A few years back I read a well-written book entitled something like “can a person be a democrat and be a catholic at the same time.” The book was written by a retired federal congressman, a catholic. He answered his question with a very scholarly NO. Why because the Democrat party is primarily an atheist non-Cristian organization.
    Notre Dame students, should go back to their studies. They missed the class where they might have learned that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time. One cannot be a Christian and an atheist at the same time. Orwell called that “double speak,” in his very important novel 1984.
    Over too many years, the faculty Senate has been populated with double speak people, ideas and deeds. Jenkins has created the monster who can devour him.

  6. It is so sad as well as troubling to see the corruption at Notre Dame as the old Notre Dame was so very important to me as a child in regard to increasing my union with Christ. Thank God we are being given the truth about what is happening today at ND. What is happening at Notre Dame is consistent with what is going on with at least some of our church leaders and it is the emphasis on humanism and people pleasing as this has surpassed knowing and doing the will of Christ which has been moved down the list. We are seeing more and more movement toward self centeredness and away from Christ centeredness. Anything not done in the open with half truths is not of Christ and to many things are being done from the shadows and when we ask for understanding, we are being ignored. Jesus never ignored the confused or lost sheep and he operated in the open as he is truth. Self centeredness, self serving, self defining whatever, SELF SELF SELF is NOT the way of Jesus Christ and IS the manifestation of someone haven eaten the forbidden fruit and a separation from God. God help us. Pray for our church leaders and pray for our beloved University. We must do everything we can to reverse this corruption, for the good of all but especially our kids and future generations. God help us. Pray for our church leaders to know and have the COURAGE to do the will of Christ, to bring Christ into the world and stop trying to use Christ for self serving purposes. The self does not know best

  7. Notre Dame seems now to ape the Church that is visible throughout the world. I had always hoped that Our Lady’s University could lead in these times, but instead its leadership’s prideful pursuit of the approbation of worldly men has ushered in children of darkness into its midst to overthrow our heritage and eternal truth itself. I’m very grateful to know that the Sycamore Trust stands with us in this fight at ND and it’s worth fighting for.

  8. Barbara McNamara January 23, 2021 at 10:42 am

    “Hundreds of students petitioned the Student Senate to call for Jenkins’s resignation; the student newspaper blasted him; and a sizable number of faculty called upon the Faculty Senate for a vote of no confidence.”

    This sad but completely predictable fact brought to mind the following passage from Scripture:

    They “…that bite with teeth and preach peace: and if a man give not something into their mouth, they prepare war against him.” (Micheas 3:5)

    When will Fr. Jenkins wake-up and realize that the moralists he chooses to be in solidarity with “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” (Mt 23:24)

    Our Pope Emeritus, Benedict, at one time, made the statement that perhaps, going forward, the Catholic Church would be a much smaller Church. Perhaps too, it would be soul-saving for Our Lady’s University if the same could be said about her. Love all of God’s Creation, every person and thing in it, to be sure; but we are all witnessing what is happening at the University as those who would “swallow a camel” outnumber those who “strain at a gnat.”

  9. Paul Barry ND '66 '67 January 23, 2021 at 10:30 am

    At one time, “God, Country & Notre Dame” was a simple, inspirational expression that could provide a basic values road map for a young Domer looking for a way to figure out a pathway to “growing up”. Now, the “G” has apparently become a “g”, or maybe it is just disappearing at ND for some (as in, for example – don’t need a multi-semester core Theology component anymore to get the degree ???). And, apparently a good bit of the “Country” and “Notre Dame” parts are both sadly veering into the ditch. It is the strident “hatred” component of the slide into that futile chasm that seems most troubling as hatred probably does eliminate any attempt at mutual understanding. And, embracing blind hatred so completely is the opposite of searching for and finding Love (as taught / as reminded within ND’s Theology Dept. as the greatest of the virtues). The prayer of St. Francis really helps explain how that hatred might be dissolved. Faculty who ply their trade at Notre Dame as informers to young minds and who opine contrary to Fr. Sorin’s traditional Notre Dame values appear to match those in our Country who dispel the imperfect yet magnanimous yet relatively young history of our Country’s founding ideals and struggles. Too bad in their academic wisdom and brilliance and insight (all sic) that Notre Dame’s rogue faculty can’t find / identify another period or place on the planet to pose as an example as one that supersedes opportunity at ND or opportunity in our unique country to listen, dialogue, and work together. Along that way of searching for Truth, maybe getting the eternal wisdom of “God, Country, and Notre Dame” back in style might be a good start under the Dome and across the campus to fix some problems (and dispel hatred from whatever source). Neither a divided country nor a divided campus will fully flourish or fully succeed.

  10. Is Notre Dame still Notre Dame or really a different institution, that has lost its soul, only with many of the same buildings and the same name it held when it was a great institution? I maintain that the negative changes (promoting neo marxism, sexual deviancy, and racism) happened after women were admitted in the early 70s and possibly as a result of that change in policy. In defense of my position I would argue that, were it still an all male school, Osama bin Obama would never have made a speech about the merits of abortion to an ND graduating class…..if for no other reason because there would have been no point. Since I see that the sins of ND may have cause the football team to get their rears kicked in the last Clemson game, I was wondering if Our Lady has left the top of the golden dome yet?

  11. I’m almost as old as Dr. Ronald Herman (PhD 1971) having entered the graduate Department of Government at ND after the 1964 Goldwater campaign for President. After leaving ND I went into college teaching at two Catholic colleges and later founded a solely Internet-based university in 2000. I found that my students were “modern” Catholics, uncomfortable with the authority of the Church and when I hired my own Faculty I found a limited number of faculty who were openly faithful to their Catholic faith.

    ND and most other “Catholic” universities could do better, if they wanted to be formally Catholic. But even Fr. Jenkins predecessor wanted ND to become “great” in the eyes of others, and gave less emphasis to what being “great” means in spiritual terms. That downward slope is slippery. One of my faculty who taught at a “Catholic” university in Ohio told me “I’m a Lutheran but more Catholic than they are.”

    Richard J. Bishirjian, PhD

  12. Dr. Carolyn Linnig O'Rourke, Ed.D. January 23, 2021 at 9:55 am

    I am stunned !

    I find Notre Dame’s reaction to the election of Joe Biden and to the appointment to Judge Barret to be extremely disappointing and terribly disturbing.

    I am certain that all of my Notre Dame family will find it to be unbelievable and totally astonishing.

    However, it looks like a true picture of what is actually taking place at Notre Dame University.



  13. Jack P Czajkowski January 23, 2021 at 9:49 am

    Its time for FR. Jenkins to go. The university needs a devout Catholic to root out the anti-Catholic professors. It’s time to return sanity to this fine institution. No more rainbow flags hanging around the campus! If you don’t want to conform, go teach or attend a secular school!!!!!

  14. Pierre Gonsalves January 23, 2021 at 9:25 am

    The fact that John Jenkins snubbed the most prolife president of our generation from campus says it all and now recently praised Biden whose first priority in office is to repeal the Mexico City Policy and Protect Life Rule. President Jenkins is a disgrace and is leading Notre Dame into the ground!

    Pierre Gonsalves MD ND 2000

  15. John McNamara '86 January 23, 2021 at 8:39 am

    One has to wonder now that Jenkins has experienced some of the crazy, screwball vitriol President Trump has experienced, from Jenkins own liberal elite hippy faculty he hired, whether that might start him reconsidering his push to radically liberalize Notre Dame and make it a secular university. Bill Dempsey, you have been more generous and and reasonable with Jenkins, than his not so loyal, and quick-abandoning liberal faculty he brought in. Hmmm . . . maybe it’s the Catholic character Bill Dempsey was raised with, you know, kindness and understanding, rather than the liberal “every crisis is a political opportunity”, you know, that Catholic character, Jenkins is methodically removing from Notre Dame, in order to club with liberal elites at other schools. Wonder if this experience has given Jenkins a fresher perspective on his so-called liberal allies. I guess he can apologize to his fellow liberal university presidents by stating that he chewed Lou Holtz out in typical liberal fashion for being pro-life and that he abandoned Amy Coney-Barrett and remained silent when that liberal moron at Boston University claimed Coney-Barrett was a bad person for adopting two children of African ancestry. Dr. King had something to say about those who remain silent in the face of injustice towards others.

    Jenkins, every day is an opportunity to reverse course, restore the Catholic faith to Notre Dame and the Holy Cross order. Now would be a good time to decide whether you want to be remembered warmly by Catholics or quickly brutalized and abandoned by secular liberals. Time to repent. A humble and intelligent man can admit when he’s wrong., and you don’t even have to say anything publicly. How big and clear a sign do you need from above? Are you that spiritually illiterate? Remember what Jesus said in the Gospel of St. Luke, paraphrasing, to those whom much has been given, much is expected.

  16. It is apparent that critical thinking is not included in the liberal arts curriculum at ND. An occasional reading of the ND Observer supports this. Socialist professors provide no space for alternative points of view. Many students are consequently deprived of a true education because they lack critical thought. The result: graduates may be proud ND but wisdom will be unknown in their life. We should question, “What is special about a Notre Dame education or ND graduate?” The answer may be, “not so much.”

  17. When students apply at Notre Dame, are they told that the university honors/abides by it’s Catholic mission & identity?
    When faculty & staff apply at ND, are they told the same thing?
    Do students/faculty/staff understand the concept of Catholic ministry?
    At Catholic healthcare ministries, those that are employed there are taught about the ethical & religious directives & compliance with them is an expectation. Are ND faculty, staff & students taught about Ex corde Ecclesiae?

  18. jenkins has to be replaced with a real Catholic person and with real Catholic board of director members. Ronald Herman MD ND 1957.

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