University president meets with students at inaugural town hall meeting

Veronica Novotny

Assistant Editor

The Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR, met with several dozen students to discuss all aspects of university life – ranging from spiritual life, mental health and COVID precautions – in a town hall meeting Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 8:30 p.m.

Pivonka started the night by dispelling rumors that the health department has authority to shut down the university.

“My interaction with the county health has been, in fact, somebody has come up to me and shared to me that they have no desire to shut down the university,” Pivonka said.

Pivonka quoted Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, as saying in a press conference Wednesday, “Don’t send them home.”

Pivonka said, “Several people have asked me (if) we have a threshold number, if we gave this many (positive COVID) cases. No, we just don’t.”

Additionally, Pivonka said the university wants to quarantine as few people as possible over the course of the semester.

“Quarantine … is not a healthy environment,” Pivonka said. “Unfortunately, with mental illness, we just don’t give it the attentiveness we need to.”

According to Pivonka, the TOR friars meet biweekly to discuss how best to serve their students’ spiritual, mental and emotional health during a time when isolation has become increasingly more common.

In addition to COVID-related issues, the town hall also addressed campus’s new degree programs, larger development plans and growing devotion to the traditional Latin Mass.

“We really want to be able to make sure all of our students (are) cared for, spiritually and physically,” Pivonka said.

Pivonka mentioned former plans of the construction of a new chapel and said, “It’s not the priority of the university right now.”

Instead, Pivonka mentioned plans for increased financial aid and a new academic building to accommodate the expansion of the university’s academic offerings, including a bachelor’s degree in engineering set to commence in 2021.

One of their campaign promises, the town hall meeting was hosted by Student Government President Athanasius Sirilla and and Vice President Clement Harrold, and David Schmiesing, vice president of student life, was also in attendance to answer questions.

Pivonka thanked both FUSG for hosting the event and the students for attending.

“The more we communicate, the more we work together, the more we ask questions, the more we discuss – things turn out better,” Pivonka said. “I could be watching a baseball game but that’s OK. I’d rather be here with you guys.”

After answering questions prepared by FUSG, Pivonka took additional questions from the audience and remained to meet personally with students after the meeting adjourned.

Freshman Hope Graham said she got more than she expected out of the meeting.

“The reason I came is because I really wanted a chance to meet Father Dave,” Graham said.

However, she said she was encouraged by Pivonka’s hopefulness that students will remain on campus through the end of the semester.

“Oh my gosh, we really could get to stay here,” she said.