BY JOHN GALLAGHER
Pope Francis does not value your toothbrush. Not as much, anyway, as the inviolability of human existence.
“A pregnant woman isn’t carrying a toothbrush in her belly, or a tumor. … We are in the presence of a human being,” said Pope Francis.
It is this unique presence to which David Schmiesing, Franciscan University’s vice president of Student Life, refers when he commented on the possibility of a student pregnancy on campus, especially as it would pertain to female residence halls.
“The practice would be to be as supportive as possible, to the extent that we reasonably can be,” said Schmiesing.
Schmiesing emphasized that there exists no written campus policy for the management of a student pregnancy, as each circumstance is unique in nature, and the measures taken to deal with each case are equally as diverse.
However, Schmiesing did maintain that given any case of student pregnancy, a spirit of acceptability, flexibility and compassion would outline the university’s approach. Regarding the possibility that a female student become pregnant while living in a residence hall, Schmiesing maintained that a primary concern would be the “possibility of an undue burden on the rest of the community.”
Schmiesing continued, “In order to function together in a community, we would look at the circumstances. As long as they are not disruptive, any student is absolutely allowed to live in a residence hall while pregnant.”
The entire situation, said Schmiesing, would be prefaced by “a discussion to determine the best set of circumstances” for both the student and the other residents.
The individuality of each student pregnancy was also described by Diann Schmidt, associate director of the Wellness Center.
“If there is a young woman, she contacts us and meets with the practitioner, and everything will be based on the path the young woman wants to take,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt expressed her hope that the university’s campus could act as a situational catalyst, in that the compassion of Franciscan students “would hopefully guide students to a start at the wellness center.”
Schmidt also acknowledged that the Wellness Center is one in a variety of resources that proves useful during a pregnancy, planned or otherwise. Specifically to ease spiritual pain that may arise, Schmidt promoted spiritual advice.
“It’s really important to go see (the friars) because students are seeking a loving, compassionate individual,” she said.
The common thread among all responses to the possibility of a student pregnancy, from the office of the vice president of Student Life to the Wellness Center’s associate director, remains the close ties between the approach to a student pregnancy and the faith.
“We hold all human life sacred,” said Schmiesing. “It’s only logical to live out our faith in this context.”
Schmidt was quick to stress the unofficial “no judgment” policy to which students on this campus adhere.
“The most Blessed Sacrament is Christ made visible” said St. Gerard Majella. He is the patron saint of pregnant women, and he recognized the unique sanctity that is a new human life. Through Franciscan University’s unique approach to student pregnancy, the school community is able to do the same.