“I wish people knew how hard we did fight for it to be in person,” junior Maya Puterbaugh, an event chair on the Junior Parents Weekend committee said. It’s no secret that students and parents alike are disappointed and disheartened by the way the Class of 2022 had to celebrate the historic JPW. The obvious restrictions and limitations due to campus’ COVID-19 policies have led to a situation that was predictable, but no less sad. JPW Co-Chair Molly O’Brien spoke to the importance of the weekend when she said, “I mean some parents, it’s their only weekend they ever come to campus.”
Despite this pervasive feeling of missed opportunity, the student planning committee, composed almost entirely of juniors, worked passionately to create the best experience possible for both students and their families. The weekend consisted of virtual college showcases, a virtual student showcase, a virtual baking event, Zoom trivia, a mass students could attend in person that was simultaneously live streamed for families to view and a virtual visit to the Grotto. In the face of constant changes and adaptations, committee members were challenged to create opportunities that would be exciting for their fellow students and their families.
Originally, the committee had resolved to do a hybrid event, recognizing the inability to physically bring parents and families to campus, but still wanting to provide an in-person event for juniors themselves to gather and celebrate. Plans were moving forward until the university made the decision to move everything virtual, but classes, in light of the spike in positive COVID-19 cases in mid-February.
As these numbers spiked the frustration of students was mirrored by that of some committee members. Colin Pifer, a junior who served as the event co-chair specializing in the trivia event, said “I didn’t feel like we were confused by the decisions because the university was pretty clear in like you’re going to do this, you’re going to do that, but we didn’t have any input.” The committee was told all events would have to be virtual and despite their disappointment, there wasn’t much time to dwell on it as they still had an event to plan. “With the circumstances that our community and society as a whole is living in right now, we didn’t really have time to question it,” said O’Brien about the committee’s response to the university’s message that the events would have to be virtual.
Many questions have been raised about moving the event until next year. The university response was a clear no, and the reasoning behind that decision seems to be a multitude of factors. “Having it in the fall, with everything else that occurs in the fall including football and alumni events and finding a time for all of the spaces that Junior Parents Weekend needs to accommodate having thousands of people on campus, would be super difficult,” said O’Brien as one of the reasons why JPW in the fall of 2021 doesn’t seem likely.
Still, many remain hopeful, with their eyes set on the possibility of the future. Although the class of 2022 will no longer be juniors in name next year, students have voiced the desire to host parents and honor them with coordinated gameday weekends or other smaller, personalized celebrations if and when that is allowed. Junior Parents Weekend is a special time to spend a couple of days with family in celebration and thanks for all they’ve given to make the Notre Dame experience possible for their students.