Friday Week: June 19

Juneteenth Rally 2020
Members of the Notre Dame football team lead participants on a walk through campus in recognition of Juneteenth. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

by Paul J. Browne

As it has since the killing of George Floyd on May 25, the Black Lives Matter movement continues to challenge the coronavirus for space in the national conversation.  Notre Dame has been no exception with the “Prayer for Unity, March for Justice” event on June 1 and “The Rally” held today and organized by Notre Dame football players to commemorate Juneteenth and support Black Lives Matter. University President Father John Jenkins and defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa opened the rally with prayers, followed by remarks from Dick Corbett Head Football Coach Brian Kelly, defensive lineman Daelin Hayes, and offensive lineman Max Siegel.

In his impassioned 10-minute talk, Daelin offered his thoughts on how to effect change: “Throughout these past weeks, I’ve been on several calls, and I get a lot of questions … How can I help? How can I be an ally in this fight? What’s the most effective way for me to bring about change? My response is always, it comes by, one, a commitment to your community; two, a commitment to diversifying your perspective, diversifying our education; and three, my personal favorite, is our accountability within our community.”.

Bigger than Basketball

Howard University, an HBCU institution in Washington, D.C., announced today —  Juneteenth — that its men’s basketball team will host the Irish next January 18 — Martin Luther King Day. Former Notre Dame point guard and 2014 graduate Eric Atkins, now an assistant coach at Howard, has penned an essay about how the game will be “bigger than basketball.” Eric’s essay is here.

Unprecedented

On Monday, Father Jenkins wrote to students to give them “a general idea of what to expect” when they return to campus in August:

“The spring semester was unprecedented in the history of Notre Dame, with the shift to remote instruction at mid-semester.  The coming academic year will be unique in its own way, as we adapt to campus life in the time of COVID-19.  We have also experienced the horrific killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the protests, discussions, and soul-searching that have followed his death. As I wrote in my letter of June 8, the issues raised by that terrible incident and the subsequent unrest are very important for us to reflect upon, discuss, and act on in the next academic year and I will have more to share on these matters in the days ahead. In this letter, however, I will speak to you specifically about the health-related changes to campus life that you will experience when you arrive.” See letter here.

Sobering

Also on Monday, the University’s executive officers wrote to the Notre Dame community about the coronavirus-related financial challenges:

“The financial indicators for our nation are sobering.  A staggering 44 million people have applied for unemployment over the past 12 weeks.  The Congressional Budget Office projected last week that the coronavirus impact could trim gross domestic product (GDP) by $15.7 trillion.  Furthermore, it is forecasting GDP will fall at a 37.7 percent rate in the April to June 2020 quarter — the biggest quarterly decline on record.

“Notre Dame is not immune to these economic effects.  Since mid-March, we have continued to pay all full-time and benefits-eligible part-time employees regardless of their ability to work or the availability of work to do.  We are projecting a revenue shortfall of $44 million for our current fiscal year ending June 30, 2020.  Much of this is attributable to returning $22 million in spring undergraduate room and board fees, as well as the loss of auxiliary revenues (e.g., Hammes Bookstore, Morris Inn, campus-based retail dining outlets) during the second half of the semester.  In an effort to mitigate this immediate impact, we, as an institution, enacted a series of measures including freezing staff hiring, stopping or postponing several capital projects, and eliminating University-sponsored travel and non-essential spending.”  See letter here.

Guiding Principle

In another letter on Monday, Edward H. Arnold University Librarian Diane Parr Walker wrote to faculty and researchers about the phased approach to providing library services beginning this week:

“In alignment with University priorities, our first guiding principle is to protect the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and their families as we support the teaching and research mission of Notre Dame.  The Hesburgh Libraries Phased Reopening Task Force has been working in conjunction with several University partners to create and implement a comprehensive plan to help safely welcome faculty and students back to library spaces.”  See letter here.

They Knew They Could Help

“As Notre Dame’s laboratories went into hibernation in March, many researchers from various fields — chemistry, engineering, political science, biology, psychology, education, and more — looked for ways to pivot their own work toward furthering knowledge into how COVID-19works, how it’s transmitted, and how our country and world can cope with the unexpected pandemic crisis.  They decided to jump into the research at different times, but for the same reason:  They knew they could help.”  Full story here.

 

Paul J. Browne is the vice president for public affairs and communications