Notre Dame Student Newspaper Runs Sobering Headline: 'Don't Make Us Write Obituaries'

by Julie Scagell
notre dame observer obituaries headline
Aaron Yoder/Getty Images, The Observer

The paper made an emergency print edition after cases soared on campus

Notre Dame started the school year holding in-person classes and there are now 336 cases of coronavirus just ten days into the semester. The school announced they would be switching to a two-week temporary distance learning model, but student journalists don’t believe that’s enough. They released the student newspaper The Observer with a sobering headline: “Don’t make us write obituaries.”

In the U.S. alone, over 5.6 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported and over 175,000 have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. As schools continue to make last-minute decisions as to whether they’ll open for in-person classes or distance learn, universities around the country are seeing large numbers of positive cases resulting from campus parties.

Editorial board members of The Observer, which covers Notre Dame as well as neighboring Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College, discussed the school’s announcement to close for two weeks and decided they need to make a statement. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” the editor told CNN, “about what we’re going to do when they make us write obituaries.”

The headline went out along with an op-ed pleading with the university’s administrators to do more to protect students, faculty and those they come into contact with. “We implore members of the tri-campus community to do everything within their power to approach this virus in an appropriate and serious manner,” they wrote.

They also implored the school to take responsibility for their part in the spreading of the virus.

“The University administration has largely blamed the COVID-19 outbreak on students attending off-campus parties,” the editorial said. “While this isn’t entirely misplaced, it has been used to deflect responsibility from the very administrations that insisted they were prepared for us to return to campus. The blame for this does not lie with just one party. We — as students, faculty, staff and administrators — need to share responsibility for the outbreak on our hands.”

The paper also said they made the decision to print copies so students had physical evidence of what was at stake.

“It was very important to me that in this moment we have a physical copy to hold and look at in the future, to signal the changes we’re making to our paper, the message that we want to send to everyone, and to highlight some of the news that’s most important,” Maria Leontaras, the Observer’s editor in chief, told Slate.

The editors also said it may be necessary to extend the distance learning through the first semester to ensure the continued safety for all involved. “Don’t make us write a professor’s obituary,” they ended the op-ed. “Don’t make us write a friend’s obituary. Don’t make us write yours.”

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.