CAT and SGA hold town hall meeting

Lexi Nahl

The University’s Campus Activities Team and Student Government Association came together to sponsor one of its periodic “Town Hall Meetings” Nov. 19. These meetings are open forums with one of the university’s most prominent and powerful figures—Rev. Father Peter Donahue, O.S.A. During these forums, students are free to ask the University’s president various questions regarding construction, alcohol policies, visitation hours for freshman, etc. 

The only “rule” discussed in the beginning was a to keep a general tone of respect while addressing Father Peter, for as SGA president Doug Jadis reminded the audience “you are speaking with the president of the University.”

The entire meeting was comprised of a rather formal question and answer period, and though question topics ranged from wifi accessibility to research grants, the tone of the meeting was generally very professional.

The meeting was held in the Villanova Room and opened with a brief introduction from Jadis, who reminded the audience that there would be a freshman debate held directly after the Town Hall meeting. Then he went on to introduce Father Peter who sat beside him on stage.

 Jadis mentioned all of Father Peter’s official titles and capacities and also laughed at his attempts to remain inconspicuous at Wildcat basketball games. 

The meeting then went directly into the question and answer portion of the evening, and opened with a simple question: “What is your favorite food to eat on campus?” Father Peter explained that he likes the pizza at the Connelly Center and the “Southwest thing” in Cafe Nova. 

He also confessed to loving “Scandal” and binge watching “House of Cards.” The questions then took a slightly more serious turn when Father Peter was asked about Villanova’s being a Fair Trade University. 

The student asking the question wondered what a Fair Trade University entails and why Villanova is trying to be one. Father Peter explained that the Fair Trade program was presented by the students through the Office of Peace and Justice, and that Villanova has undertaken the initiative because the University is passionate about helping out the less fortunate and promoting the interests of simple farmers who are growing crops and still looking to compete in world markets. 

It is “because of who we are, the kind of institution we are, [and] the way we proclaim to live our lives,” that we needed to take part in this mission, explained Father Peter. 

Other popular topics of the evening were Villanova’s attempt to become a more research based University and Villanova’s construction plans. 

On the other hand, Father Peter cleared up the myth that Villanova is not a research based institution and responded that we are, in fact, already one, and that we are now just seeking our proper classification.

 Father Peter explained to the audience that we are currently classified as a Master’s Comprehensive Regional School according to the Carnegie Foundation, which classifies Universities throughout the country. 

Those classifications are then utilized by ranking agencies like Barron’s, Princeton, Forbes, etc., so it is extremely important that “we [Father Peter and others] have done a lot to move the University to more national prominence.” 

Because our school has been growing both demographically, geographically, and in terms of both impressive undergraduates and faculty, Father Peter hopes that “they [ranking agencies] will see the things already going on and recognize us for the kind of school we already are.” 

Father Peter then went on to discuss some of the construction projects on campus, one of the most popular and anticipated ones being the Pavilion. He explained that about $150 million of our campaign to raise $600 million to infuse into the institution will go towards capital improvements. 

The Pavilion is just one of these improvements, but it’s not a cheap one. The University ventures that the Pavilion upgrade will be about a $50 million project.

 Though the University has no plans to build a bigger institution (Radnor Township will not allow this), there are plans in place to change the design.

 The upgraded Pavilion will be squared and not sloped, so the inside capacity will actually be bigger. 

The new entrance will come off of Lancaster Avenue and people will be able to enter through the upper concourse and walk down into the bowl. 

All of the seats will also be cushioned back seats, so the current bleacher seating will soon be no longer. The new Pavilion will hold the same number of people, but Father Peter hopes to see suites go in along with various restaurants and a Hall of Fame. 

Other future construction initiatives include the senior housing project which Father Peter hopes to see completed in 2018, and a new Preforming Arts Center—a project expected to take $30-$40 million.

Other questions included why there is no Starbucks on campus and why the wifi is so spotty on South Campus, and Father Peter graciously welcomed them all. 

For those who are wondering, we don’t have a Starbucks on campus because it is not advantageous for the University to rent out its space to outside businesses, and the wifi on South is something which the University continues to look into. 

It is unsurprising that Father Peter enthusiastically welcomed all questions from the audience, for he is known for both his welcoming manner towards everyone in the community, and his attempts to make policies and plans as transparent and possible. 

Father Peter’s commitment to his community is in fact so great that he is one of the only University Presidents who holds open office hours in his office on the first floor of Tolentine Hall. 

Though he holds an open door policy for faculty and staff consistent with his open spirit and manner, he does require appointments with students. 

Appointments are given on a first come first serve basis and typically capped at 30 minutes per student. To make an appointment to visit Father Peter during his office hours, sure to stop by his office and choose a date and time from the list outside his door.