In a shocking statement released late Friday afternoon, Nathan Bailey, Head Groundskeeper at the University of Notre Dame, admitted to overseeing the covert transplanting and/or spray-painting of thousands of trees on campus.

I fully admit to and confirm my participation in and organization of ‘Operation Pumpkin Spice Latte,’ and to its predecessors from years past: ‘Operations Patagonia,’ ‘LL Bean,’ ‘Apple Orchard Christmas Card,’ ‘Hayride Instagram,’ ‘Cinnamon Candle,’ ‘Store Bought Snickerdoodle,’ ‘Ugg-erlord,’ and several others,” said Bailey in a press release. “This practice began in 2005 and has continued every year since. It was a mistake, and I accept the consequences. I will be stepping down as Head Groundskeeper. However, I would like to clarify that all Fall colors prior to 2005 were genuine and natural.”

Rumors of this practice have circulated quietly for nearly a decade but, until recently, were dismissed as ridiculous and conspiratorial. However, senior Matt Thomas, of La Mesa, California, had his suspicions during his first Midwestern Fall in 2015.  

“I just remember waking up one morning in late October,” Thomas said. “All of sudden, the next day, a third of the trees on West Quad were orange. I didn’t know a lot about deciduous trees, but I always kinda thought they would at least turn yellow first.”

Thomas said that when he asked friends from the area if this was normal, they all looked at him incredulously and asked what he was talking about.

There are many students who recall going to sleep surrounded by predominantly verdant foliage and awaking to a rich blend of autumnal hues. Danielle Jacobson of Yakama, Washington was particularly struck by the variety of colors.

“I understand that the leaves start to die and everything, but I always found it strange that one tree would stay yellow for four weeks and the same kind and size right next to it would go straight to deep orange.”said Jacobson.

When confronted with this phenomenon, Bailey remarked that “certain persons in the administration felt that a more uniform collection of colors would not sell as many postcards.” When asked why this practice is even necessary, as most of the trees on campus are naturally deciduous anyway, Bailey again made reference to “certain persons” of the administration, explaining that they found that “strict adherence to God’s natural order is no way to turn a profit.”

Fr. Jenkins has denied all knowledge of the practice.

Bailey’s statement comes on the heels of an investigation conducted by Chris Feld of Sorin Hall. His report cross-referenced the number of ‘turned’ trees with the various offerings of the Dining Halls, La Fortune Starbucks, SAO and Student Government, and the St. Liam’s Wellness Center. Stunningly, over the four years studied, Starbucks added the seasonal ‘PSL’ at exactly 30% ‘leaves turned’ every year, which is usually the result of one night’s work. In other words, Starbucks offered their fall drink on the very day that fall foliage appeared. Similarly, both dining halls offered fall themed dishes within two days of ‘turning,’ SAO and Student Government had their Fall Fest planned exactly a week later, and the Wellness Center switched their color and candle scheme to fall exactly a week prior. This especially striking considering the seemingly random dates chosen by the ground maintenance crew.

Fr. Jenkins became President of the University in 2005.