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Off-campus parties raise questions from Notre Dame students about double standards

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Some Notre Dame students, who were caught partying at an off-campus house with no masks, are going through a campus discipline process.

But that has some questioning a perceived double standard.

As we told you last night, 200 Notre Dame students have signed a petition calling on university president Fr. John Jenkins to resign. This follows a large event Jenkins attended at the White House without a mask or social distancing.

The students say Jenkins is being held to one standard, and the students who threw house parties are being held to another.

“The weekend of the super-spreader parties, before the Notre Dame COVID numbers went up, they had a very large party with about 100 people," said a South Bend resident.

That party in mid-August was followed by a huge spike in Notre Dame coronavirus cases -- from 45 to 304, less than a week later.

But she says the students first started partying in mid-July.

“I have never seen a mask, I have never seen any person in that yard wear a mask.”

University policy prohibits groups greater than 10 and requires masks. The neighbor says she knocked on the LaSalle Avenue door several times, but they never answered.

During one party, she says she heard a scream that sounded like someone in trouble, so she called the police. Two South Bend officers responded, made sure everyone was okay, and shut down the party.

“This is really not a good idea," said the resident. "We’d really rather not be the people who had to turn you in.”

After Notre Dame coronavirus case numbers surged, she hoped the mask-less parties would stop.

Tolly Taylor: “Tuesday the 18th, Father Jenkins announces they’re going into quarantine—did the parties stop?”
Resident: “The parties stopped for one week.”

The neighbor says she also reached out to Domer's Choice, the leasing company, starting on July 24.

“I never received a response to any of my three messages.”

She says neighbors would talk about ways to get the students to stop. She says the goal was not to get them in trouble -- it was to stop parties larger than 10 people.

“Especially after all the warnings, they know exactly what they’re not supposed to be doing—and to be doing it so loud and so visibly, is almost like they don’t care at all.”

On September 12, another neighbor sent an email to the Notre Dame Office of Student Affairs. She got a response saying the complaint had been passed on to the Office of Community Standards.

We reached out to Notre Dame to find out the status of the complaint.

Notre Dame spokesperson Dennis Brown responded: "The university is aware of the problems there and they are being addressed through the student conduct process."

Ashton Weber is one of the students calling on Father Jenkins to resign.

“We have been in conversation with each other and some of our other peers about how unfair it is now to students who were dismissed from the university," said Weber.

Weber cites Jenkins attending the Rose Garden nomination ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Saturday. The video shows Jenkins without a mask, shaking hands at the crowded ceremony.

“I do know that students have been dismissed for doing essentially the same thing Father Jenkins did."

Weber says, after Jenkins broke his own coronavirus rules in August and again Saturday, she would expect students who feel they've been unfairly disciplined to file lawsuits.

“If you’re not going to enforce it consistently across all demographics on this campus, then you need to go back and un-enforce.”

Makira Walton agrees.

“Father Jenkins is a fully grown man in charge of running a university. The expectation of duty from those two groups should be different.”

Walton and the other students say the partying students should be punished. But they say it looks hypocritical to expel or severely discipline rule-breaking students when the president can break those rules and simply send an email apology.

“Let’s dispense with the idea that there’s a level playing field between, you know, an 18-year-old and a man who has been president of a university for 15 years," said Patrick Kelly-Dutile.

Notre Dame's Student Senate is meeting tonight to review the petition calling for Jenkins' resignation. It'll be discussed around 6:45 p.m. and they're expected to vote on it next Thursday.

We just got word the university has updated its Social Gathering Policy. You can now have up to 20 people outside with masks -- and socially distanced.

In addition to this, up to two additional guests from the same residence hall are now permitted to gather in another student's room if all are wearing masks and social distancing. The door must also be left open.

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Notre Dame hopes to ease restrictions again in a few weeks if all precautions are followed.

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