May 26, 2020 - Health

Notre Dame president: Science alone "cannot provide the answer" to reopening

Notre Dame University.

The Main Administration Building and Golden Dome on the campus of University of Notre Dame before a football game in 2018. Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins wrote in a New York Times op-ed Tuesday that science alone "cannot provide the answer" regarding the school's decision to bring students back to campus for its fall semester.

The state of play: Jenkins said that the decision also hinged on "moral value," arguing that "the mark of a healthy society is its willingness to bear burdens and take risks for the education and well-being of its young. Also worthy of risk is the research that can enable us to deal with the challenges we do and will face."

  • "We all hope for an effective vaccine that will put COVID-19 behind us. Yet we cannot and should not assume that a vaccine will be available soon, nor, indeed, that another pandemic will not follow close behind."
  • "We are in our society regularly willing to take on ourselves or impose on others risks — even lethal risks — for the good of society. We send off young men and women to war to defend the security of our nation knowing that many will not return. We applaud medical professionals who risk their health to provide care to the sick and suffering. We each accept the risk of a fatal traffic accident when we get in our car."
  • "Perhaps what we most need now, alongside science, is that kind of courage and the practical wisdom it requires. Notre Dame’s recent announcement about reopening is the attempt to find the courageous mean as we face the threat of the virus and seek to continue our mission of education and inquiry."

Worth noting: Jenkins did say that students will experience new protocols for testing, contact tracing and quarantining when they return to campus.

  • The school will implement preventative measures like hand-washing, physical distancing and will require masks "in certain settings."
  • It will also shift its schedule two weeks early and forgo a fall break in order to finish the semester before Thanksgiving.

Go deeper: A closer look at how colleges can reopen

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