Clare Myers, Staff Writer
School awaits response on exemption from contraception provision
In his “State of the University” address last week to the Student Government, President Thomas Keefe discussed the controversial Health and Human Services health care mandate and how the school is dealing with the law.
Keefe said the university is awaiting an answer to an official request for relief from having to comply with a key provision of the mandate.
“This is a transitional moment in the history of Catholicism in the U.S. and we’re part of it,” he said. “We hope and pray that we will be allowed to practice our faith.”
The university has requested judicial relief in an affidavit that will “attest there will be irreparable damage done” if it is forced to conform to the mandate, Keefe said. Part of the law is a much-debated measure requiring most employers to offer health insurance that includes contraception, regardless of whether the employer objects to contraception on religious grounds.
The international law firm Jones Day, which offered to represent Catholic institutions pro bono in lawsuits over the mandate, will represent UD.
Keefe said he cannot predict the outcome of the situation. However, should the request for relief be denied, one option the university has is to not offer healthcare, a decision that could have serious financial consequences.
“I don’t think it would have an effect on the business of the school,” Keefe said. “But I believe it would be a challenge.”
The Board of Trustees will meet on Oct. 18 to discuss UD’s options.
In addition to the current legal situation, Keefe discussed the administration’s plans to improve the campus Wi-Fi connection and to build a new College of Business building.
The oft-complained-about UD Air will be getting a much-needed upgrade, possibly by the end of the semester, according to Keefe. The president spoke of increasing the bandwidth by January, since the university’s contract with Time Warner will expire in December. SG members voted unanimously to try to expedite the process. Ambitiously, the goal is to have it ready by Thanksgiving; realistically, the break is the earliest it could happen.
“It could be difficult with contract renegotiation,” SG president Will Chavey said. He predicted changes would take effect between the end of the month and the beginning of next semester.
Student complaints about the Wi-Fi connecton, voiced to the administration by SG, were the impetus for the decision.
“We would like to respond to your reasonable needs,” Keefe said. “We understand that you live here.”
He also addressed another frequently bemoaned aspect of UD: the aesthetics of the campus.
“This is a really, really good school … but we don’t look really good,” the president said.
In addition to the construction of new entrances on campus and investment in the Braniff Graduate Building, Gorman Lecture Center and the Patrick E. Haggerty Science Center, a new College of Business building will be constructed in the vacant space near Braniff where the Dominican priory was once located.
The administration has also decided to cease attempts to fix Carpenter Hall.
“I had a structural engineer in the basement of Carpenter a few months ago,” Keefe said. “It’s collapsing in on itself.”
Various other matters were discussed including tuition and increasing the freshman retention rate. A question was raised about the sexual violence awareness campaign, but Keefe indicated the campaign was under the jurisdiction of Dr. John Plotts, vice president of enrollment and student affairs.
He did acknowledge its importance.
“I don’t want to just put on a show,” he said.