Dear Fr. Jenkins,
The recent changes to the spring 2021 Notre Dame schedule are confusing at best and harmful at worst. Your goal to minimize exposure to the cold and enable outdoor activities so that COVID-19 exposure will be lessened is admirable, but the methods you have decided on do not seem to actually mitigate any of the problems you seek to address. I am not entirely sure what South Bend you experience every year, but, in my years here, the temperature has remained frigid until at least late April, with snow in that month being common — not to mention the fact that two years ago we had a polar vortex in February. Pushing the semester back two weeks is not likely to minimize the negative effects of people couped up due to the weather; the simple fact is that those effects will be experienced from February through April anyway.
However, the real problem with the delayed semester lies in pushing the date beyond Feb. 1. For those of us who rely on student loans to pay for our living expenses, that is simply not acceptable. It is bad enough that the University does not distribute our loan money until classes start, which results in a delay in our ability to access the funds that literally belong to us (and even then, the school first distributes them through its IrishPay system in some odd attempt to get us to only spend money at Notre Dame). But by delaying classes until Feb. 3, you are essentially telling students it’s “too bad if you needed student loans to do those pesky things like pay rent and not starve.” February rent becomes due on Feb. 1, and the school, it appears, will not make the money that is legally owned by its students available to them until well after that.
It is shocking that an institution that claims to be a community of care would so brazenly and callously make a decision (with zero student input) that will cause significant harm to those students who are most vulnerable. I personally do not have the money to pay for expenses and rent without my student loan disbursement. I budgeted for this school year relying on the fact that I would have my spring student loan money in hand by mid-January. I am angry this school arbitrarily made a decision that so negatively impacts the students it claims to care about.
So, Fr. Jenkins, how exactly are you going to make sure that a good portion of the students you are charged with overseeing don’t get thrown out of their homes, or aren’t forced to choose between paying rent and eating? I challenge you to live up to the ideals you claim to promulgate at Notre Dame. Help those who are being disadvantaged exclusively because of your actions. If you cannot do that, if you cannot provide a solution to the problem that you have created, then your words of helping others are hollow.
A frustrated Notre Dame graduate student
third-year law student
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.