This Is Why We Write.

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

When people ask me what my courses involve in Oxford, I swiftly respond, “lots of writing.” This has been a writing intensive year for me. My academic program revolves around the preparation and presentation of essays. It is a rigorous though not overwhelming pace of writing. With a little bit of discipline, one can navigate the academic term so as to only endure the occasional all-nighter or intellectual train wreck. One can write in comfort and security. Writing becomes a manageable chore.

There is certainly merit in steady, productive writing habits; they are essential to tasks academic and otherwise. Still, when writing becomes a chore (however enriching), one can lose sense of the vitalizing and connective power of the written word. When we write merely to communicate our more superficial ideas, we can lose touch with the passions and values that underpin them. Such is the authorial malaise I found myself in until recently.

Sometimes it takes another’s words to remind me what my own stand on.

Last month, my friend and fellow Friarside writer Abby Hevert was confronted by every study-abroad student’s worst nightmare. She received a call while traveling in Germany; her grandfather was dying. She was powerless to make it home to say goodbye in time, but she embraced this helplessness with beautiful grace. When she finally made it home, she did what only felt natural: she wrote.

This is why we write. We verbalize what we believe must be shared. Because Abby shared her story, hundreds of readers (myself included) have gained a small share of that highly communicative grace. We write to share our stories. We write to share our beliefs and values. We write to lend a hand. We write to open dialogue. We write about tricky subjects that some try to brush under the rug. We write to sort through our frustrations. We write about what frightens us. We write about what inspires us as well as what disheartens. We write about our niche interests. We write about matters much bigger than ourselves.

We do not claim always to write beautifully, and sometimes we can write recklessly. It was only recently that a friend drew my attention to something cruel and untrue that I wrote in an angry moment last spring. Writing makes us vulnerable to all kinds of criticism, and sometimes criticism is precisely the bucket of cold water we need.

Through Friarside Chats, we write about those matters we care most about. We write for a community we love. Friarside writers have all shared in a healthy, enriching, and constructive experience. It is an experience well worth sharing. This is why we write. Please, write with us.

Dear Class of 2014: Let’s Show ‘Em What We Got

NickDefaultNick Wallace ’14

Dear Class of 2014:

With finals over and commencement week just beginning, I took advantage of the beautiful weather we received last Sunday by going for a long run through Providence. As the run progressed, however, it became less of a workout and more a time of reflection and introspection.

I ran past Piano Bar and reminisced about the Sexless Marriages, the infamous Wheel of Mystery, and the countless requests for “Defying Gravity” and “Let it Go” to be played. I ran past Whiskey Republic, and thought of the chaos that came with trying (and usually failing) to make the 10 o’clock BuzzBus. I ran on Exchange Terrance, and thought of cheering on some of my closest friends as they finished the Cox Half Marathon just a week earlier. I smiled as I ran past Fire and Ice, recalling each time my housemates and I stuffed our faces on College Night.

I got the chills as I saw a sign for the Dunkin Donuts Center, remembering storming the court against Villanova, Marshon’s 52 against Notre Dame, the arrival of Coach Cooley, the heroics of Bryce Cotton, and watching the Friars win a Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden. I finally made my way back up Douglas Avenue and past ol’ reliable Olds, the madness of Clubbies, and a place where everybody knows your name: Brads.

I finished my run at our beautiful outdoor track, but my trip down memory lane did not stop there. I turned off my music and began a slow (and long) walk back to my house on Huxley Avenue. I took in the beauty of Harkins and the grandeur of Ruane. I walked past the Quad and embraced all the memories that came along with it: living in Aquinas, playing Kan Jam instead of studying, and all of the Civ Screams. When I passed Ray, I tried to stay positive; as a growing boy, quantity often trumps quality. I made my way down the Guzman Hill and recalled living with the Guzman Goons freshman year. Finally, I made my way down to Lower Campus and took a long look at Suites: my favorite living experience here at PC.

As commencement quickly approaches, there seems to be a strong focus on the academic experiences we’ve all had here at Providence College. Our degrees will denote our areas of study. Some of us were awarded with academic awards earlier today. But what does it all really mean? I don’t mean to take anything away from academic achievement: I will wear my cords with pride. But my college experience was not defined by my GPA nor my field of study. What will stick with me forever are the relationships I formed with students, professors, administrators, faculty, and staff alike. Moreover, some of the most important lessons I learned over the past 4 years came outside of the classroom: being a member of Student Congress, doing service throughout the city of Providence, organizing around the issues of Academic Freedom and LGBT rights, acting as a fitness instructor, and last but not least, writing as a member of Friarside Chats. When people ask me about Providence College, these are the things I choose to speak about. These are the experiences that will last a lifetime.

But this piece isn’t supposed to serve as a final reflection or a diary entry to make you teary-eyed before we walk across that stage. Instead, I simply wish to make the point that while different colored cords may differentiate us, our academic experience is only one piece of our entire PC experience.

I’ll never forget what Dr. Hyde’s said to my PSC 102 class after returning our first exam. He proclaimed, “If you did well, don’t get a big head; this exam is only worth 15% of your final grade. If you didn’t do well, don’t worry about it; this exam is only worth 15% of your final grade.”

In the hyper-competitive world we live in, we oftentimes get caught up comparing each other’s accolades: our GPA’s, our work experience, and our extra-curricular activities. Similarly, as we all get ready to go off into the “real world,” the same competitive mentality is usually applied. We envy those people with life direction, and seemingly look down on those who are still trying to figure it out.

 

So I call anybody reading this piece to take the advice of Professor Hyde.

Those of you with definite plans post-graduation: Remember all of the hard work it took to get to where you are. You have the necessary tools to be great and succeed; continue to use them. Embarking on this new journey should be exciting and fun. So it’s okay to be serious, but enjoy the ride as you more forward.

Those of you who are still trying to figure it out: There is a big difference between failing, and being a failure. If things don’t work out, if you don’t produce the results you want, that’s okay. But don’t confuse who you are with the results that you produce. Where you are in the world is always temporary. If you want a change, go make it happen.

And finally, to every member of the class of 2014: We will all fail in life at some point or another. But, in the words of Eric Thomas, if you are going to fail, fail forward. Learn from every mistake you make, every setback you endure, every obstacle that you don’t overcome, and every barrier that you cannot budge. Don’t quit. Don’t give up; fail forward.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned through four years of college is the importance of faith. And despite my presence at a Catholic college, I am not talking about faith in God. Instead, I am talking about faith in you. In order to accomplish your goals, you need to have a vision. You need to foresee the future. You need to believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to. Nothing great in this world is ever accomplished without faith.

Up until this point, I’ve lived life with a chip on my shoulder. I wear bracelets that say “Prove People Wrong.” But I’ve learned that in this life, the only person worth proving anything to is yourself. So, Class of 2014, don’t try to prove anybody wrong; Prove Yourself Right. Do whatever you can, wherever you are, with whatever you have, and never be satisfied. Know that, wherever you are in life, you can enjoy more, and that you deserve more. Don’t ever settle. Continue to strive for greatness. Continue to be great.

The “real world” is waiting for us, 2014. Let’s show ‘em what we’ve got.

There Comes a Time

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert, ’15

On Friday, I received an unusual message from my mother. She asked me to call her, if I could, and so I did. I got on the phone and it was my dad, telling me that my grandfather was dying. My grandfather was leaving the hospital and going back home after a terrifyingly short battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), which deteriorates the body, sometimes in a very fast way. They were in the car headed to see him in his final days, and I was in Munich, Germany, halfway across the world with limited ways to change flights home and cancel travel to Austria, Croatia, and Switzerland. Every time I used my hostel’s phone, I only heard people who spoke German. I pleaded, in English, with the simplest of vocabulary: “change flight, please!” It was fruitless. The internet stopped working. I was stuck. So I did the one thing I could think to do: I called my brother.

Mark, my brother, picked up and talked to me about my grandfather. He and I then started to talk about how incredible it was that I was in Germany, my grandfather’s home country. It seemed to the both of us that it was almost poetic that I was in the place where my grandfather started while he was at his end. I cried and explained to my brother how devastated that I was that I could not say goodbye to Grandpa. I screamed, got frustrated, and cried “Mark, get me home! Right now! Get me home!” He, being the beautiful person that he is, said: “Abby. This is the world telling you that there is nothing you can do right now. I need you to go get a shower, talk to your friends, vent, say some prayers, get a beer, and walk around Munich for Grandpa. Breathe it in and then breathe it out for him. You are exactly where you should be. Let go. The universe is in control right now.” So, I took all of that advice. I walked down to the Glockenspiel (one of the most famous landmarks in Germany), said around fifty Hail Mary’s, and purchased a beer at a sketchy kebab place. I went back into my room and felt more at peace than ever. No plans had been made. My grandfather was still dying. I was still thousands of miles away from my family. And, yet, the peace I felt was more overwhelming than my stress. I surrendered to the universe. It was time for my grandfather to go home to his eternal one and it was time for me to go home to my temporary one in Massachusetts, leaving my time abroad. I knew that the universe would find a way for me to get home and it did. I flew home on Monday without any regrets or hard feelings. It was my time to go and so I trusted that the universe was leading me in the right direction. I realized that everyone has a time to leave; including my grandfather. He was at peace with his departure and so I was at peace with mine.

I came home on Monday and went to PC on Tuesday. There, I saw so many seniors. They were all telling me about their upcoming plans after graduation, or lack thereof. They were mostly unsure, mostly terrified, and mostly sad to be leaving PC. Of course, they are all still incredible. The class of 2014 is still amazing in every respect. They always made me feel welcomed, important, respected, and comforted. The seniors at Providence College are ones for the history books. They challenged each other and their school. They make differences, live completely, and enjoy their experiences at PC fully. They live their time at PC wholeheartedly. And, of course, with this commitment to live completely and fully comes a “catch twenty-two,” of sorts. When we invest ourselves in something or someone, we are at risk of being hurt when that something or someone goes away. Because I had endowed myself to my family, I was saddened at the passing of my grandfather. And because the seniors of Providence College have invested themselves completely in their school, they will also be saddened when it is their day to depart. Seniors, take a lesson from my grandfather. When he was asked how he was feeling when he was leaving this earth, he smiled and said “terrific.” He was devoted in life, reaped the benefits, and left feeling complete. And, so, even though it is difficult to do, I ask the class of 2014 to perhaps smile during these last few weeks, think back on your time, and be thankful that you were invested. When you get that diploma, I hope you do not say: “But I did not have enough time!” I hope, instead, you smile and say, fondly, “terrific.”

Because, after all, the time comes for all of us to depart. But, always remember, that with departures come new arrivals. Exits lead to entrances. Last days lead to first days. Good things lead to great things. Great things lead to better things. So, 2014, although your time is nearing for your departure, remember to surrender to the universe. There comes a time for all of us to leave. But there also comes a time for all of us to start anew, become better, and embark on the next adventure. It is all a part of this universal plan, you see. It is beyond us so surrender to it. It will not lead you astray, I promise you. It assigns us all a time to leave so that we can start something better.

So, 2014: I ask you to yield to the universe. After all, there always comes a time.

Nobody’s Sidekick: Where are the Next Crusaders?

IMG_497604574877~2Matthew Henry Smith, ’16

My little brother, Benjamin, (the last Smith child) recently introduced me to Young Justice. Recently acquired by Netflix Streaming, this cartoon tells the story of DC’s Justice League elevating their assistants from simple sidekicks to Protégés.

You should know Superheroes are taken very seriously in my house. We pour over IMDB for updates on the newest X-Men movies. We debate Christology and LGBT themes in the Marvel Universe. But DC’s Young Justice recently took my thoughts in a different direction.

Young Justice isn’t a coalition of sidekicks. Instead, Kid-Flash, Robin and the gang are tomorrow’s heroes. The concept of Superheroes training the next generation of caped crusaders had me thinking about our own student leaders. Could it be that this Saturday morning cartoon is a serendipitous allegory to for the stories of our campus’ club executives, student writers, programmers, athletes, guides and representatives? You bet.

Even before Buzzfeed came around you were taking tests to tell you “what sort of person you are.” These tests are meant to be helpful, and direct your focus towards preexisting strengths you can hone. That said, they’ve very seriously perpetuated a damaging stereotype of leadership.

Sure, some folks were born with skills and personality traits that are objectively acute for leading. Consider the Type-A’s, the extroverts, those for whom leadership comes naturally. These people are the ones among us who are most sought after to lead.

That said, it is dangerous to think that the only people who can lead were born to do so. Leadership is not always extroversion. Sometimes it’s diligence. But always it’s selfless dedication to a cause that often predates and hopefully outlives the leader.

One of the dangers of narrowing the definition of leadership is that, eventually, we come to expect that only these sorts of people will lead us. And because there are more executive positions than there are Type-A’s, leadership monopolies form like soft student oligarchies. It’s never malicious and isn’t always harmful. But what happens when students who are considering getting more involved see the same faces at the top of every chain of student command? If I weren’t a “Type-A” kind of guy, I might be intimidated to get involved when student leadership is dominated by a similar few.

After thinking about this for a while, I’ve come up with a check-in list for the binary that has formed. Here’s the breakdown for those who weren’t the first to jump on the involvement train:

  1. There’s always time, but not as much as there was yesterday.
  2. Your ideas are important.
  3. There isn’t a perfect formula for leadership. Find someone who inspires you, but lead with your own qualities.
  4. You can lead from unelected/appointed positions.

And here’s the breakdown for the Type-A’s:

  1. Seek opportunities to empower others to lead.
  2. You don’t need to lead every time you are asked to.
  3. Allow for people to try, to fail, to try again, and to prove you wrong.
  4. You can still lead from unelected/appointed positions.

Causes and clubs shouldn’t rise and fall on the backs of singular members. The best leaders empower all connected in the cause to rise to the challenges of these responsibilities. Especially when it comes to campus leadership, we should always remember that less than four years from any point in our collegiate journeys we won’t be part of the picture.

In short we are doing very well. Our clubs are strong and our student leadership is sincere. This is simply a reminder to always seek out who is coming next – especially as some Friars approach commencement.

Consequently this presents the opportunity to announce that a new tab will be appearing soon for students to submit guest pieces to the writers of Friarside Chats. We’re looking for fresh new ideas and, of course, our own next generation of forward-thinking editorialists.

Anyway, you’ve got a whole summer coming your way to consider sharing your own load or helping out with someone else’s.

Keep at it, Super-Friars. And in the meantime, check out Young Justice… if only because it takes place in Rhode Island.

Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency: Miss America Comes to PC

defaultDavid Pinsonneault ‘ 14

Meet Miss America 2014.  Her name is Nina Davuluri. She came to campus this past Tuesday night to share her story and what she hopes to accomplish during her one-year tour. Nina grew up in a small, conservative town in Oklahoma.  There, she dealt with many common stereotypes about her stemming from her Indian heritage.  People around her often wondered if she had an arranged marriage lined up or if she worshiped cows. At a very young age, she was confronted by labels that were often not malicious but simply ignorant of her culture.  She eventually moved to Michigan and began to compete in pageants.

Miss America is a non-profit organization that has four pillars: style, service, scholarship and success.  Nina sees her service, as a business woman, to be one of the most important pillars.  The Miss America Organization has also given out over forty-five million dollars in scholarship money, ninety-two thousand of which has gone to Nina.  When it came time for college, Nina took a break from competition and studied at Michigan State before transferring to the University of Michigan after one year.  While at the University of Michigan, she was exposed to an Indian community that she identified with for the first time. She immersed herself in “Brown Town,” a group a students who shared similar struggles in everyday life.  Nina shared a story, however, that reflected on how some of the different college organizations did not always hang out with one another.  A friend called her to ask what she was doing on a particular night and she responded that she was hanging out with “Brown Town.”  She did not invite the other student to join or ask to meet up later.  The other student confronted her about this the following day and Nina was glad she did.  It is important to be inclusive to all people.  This is what she says drove her to introduce a cultural day for student organizations where they could engage in different communities.  It was Nina’s hope to engage students through their senses.  She wanted them to see, touch, and feel as others would from different cultures.  This is something that drove her to get back into Miss America competitions after college.

In order to compete in the Miss America competition, one must first win at the local and state levels. After college Nina was living in New York and won Miss Syracuse.  She then won Miss New York before winning the title of Miss America.  The odds were not in her favor to do this, as the previous Miss America winner was also from New York. Before entering competition she had to ask herself two questions: Why do you want to win and what change can you make?  Nina honestly believed that in three to five years, Miss America would have to be someone with a diverse background in order to represent an image of what young America is today.  For this reason, she set her platform as celebrating diversity through cultural competency, something she had seemingly been working on her entire life.  Nina’s talent in the competitions was Bollywood, an Indian dance she shared from her culture.  She graduated with a B.S. in Brain, Behavior & Cognitive Science, and will now use her platform to understand patients’ background and beliefs to give them the best healthcare possible.  Nina hopes to attend medical school after her one year tour as Miss America.

Nina has faced criticisms as Miss America.  She has been called a “terrorist” and told that she “does not look American enough” for the title.  Nina, however, has taken this in stride.  She knows her job right now is to be Miss America and not Miss India.  She presents herself as an academic type, able to relate to people of all backgrounds; people should know better than to be intolerable.  The truth is that for every negative comment she hears, she receives much more encouragement and support.  She says that this reality is reflective of the demographics of America.  It is not easy to change the way people think.  Nina believes racism is taught.

Gender roles have also come up during Nina’s time as Miss America.  She has, at times, felt objectified.  She knows that when she walks into a room all eyes are on her, especially from men.  She uses this as an advantage and presents herself as an academic and uses her voice.  She has had meetings with people who are considered ‘high-up’ who have joked with her asking her if she can cook.  Nina says that you have to welcome all questions openly as a way to respond to any ignorance you may face.

This is why Nina is truly making big changes as Miss America 2014.  She has changed the idea of what beautiful is.  Miss America no longer has blond hair and blue eyes.  Nina explained that lighter skin is considered more beautiful in India, but in America tan is often seen as beautiful.  Beauty is subjective.  Anyone reading this should simply have confidence in themselves.  Have a support system around you that recognizes you for who you are on the inside and how you care for others around you.  Miss America no longer looks like Barbie. Miss America now looks like Nina Davuluri.  She succeeded despite her race and socioeconomic background, and encourages others that they can do the same no matter what career path they choose.

This is what Nina hopes to accomplish as Miss America.  She hopes to help others celebrate diversity through cultural competency and by sharing a little bit of herself with others.  She allows us to learn more about her culture, and more about the world. This is a new perspective that Miss America can bring to us in 2014.

miss america

Weathering the Storm of Realignment

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

We’re only a matter of hours away from the Friars’ first appearance in the Big East title game in twenty years. An automatic bid to NCAA tournament is on the line. The original Big East’s architect’s program seeks to upset the new Big East’s newest team to beat. The championship game is the culmination of a Big East season ripe with what we love most about college basketball. It is a high-energy game in which momentum is key and nothing can be taken for granted. It is the ultimate spectator sport in which the atmosphere of an arena both lends and steals momentum. Schools of every size can build, have built, and will build successful programs. A school’s size and resources matter far less than the commitment and ability of its athletes and coaches. Cinderella stories happen in college basketball, and no powerhouse program can purchase invulnerability.

Conference realignment based on football interests have threatened Providence College and schools like ours in recent years. Concerned by reforms in the NCAA football postseason and fixated on the almighty dollar, larger institutions able to support football programs suddenly decided that there was no room in the college athletics landscape for smaller institutions that could not. Football interests drove a wedge into Dave Gavitt’s basketball focused Big East; it was clear that the Big East was no conference to be in for teams hopeful for a berth in an impending playoff system.

College football’s ability to trump all other athletic interests is simply a reality. One can feel nostalgic for simpler days when conference titles and high profile bowl games were enough for everybody but Notre Dame (and the Fighting Irish could be appeased with an AP or Coaches’ trophy), but there is no going back nor real sense in complaining.

But under threat of being left out in the cold by realignment, we found out who our friends really are. In 1979 when the Big East was founded, intercollegiate friendship was not dictated by likeness in size, budget, or market. In the age of football hegemony, these have become many D1 schools’ only grounds for cooperation. But Providence College and the rest of the Catholic seven (plus honorary Catholic college, Butler University) have weathered the storm. It is a shame that a climate has developed in which the mid-sized private and large public schools that made up the old Big East cannot coexist in a conference, but interscholastic solidarity between those of us that UConn, Pitt, Syracuse, and the like decided they couldn’t be bothered with has brought an exciting new beginning out of what could have easily spiraled into catastrophe.

For tonight (and hopefully for the coming weeks), the Big East is all about basketball. But I am hopeful that the new Big East will offer opportunities for great athletic rivalry coupled with constructive interscholastic cohesion. We are a misfit conference out to prove the worth of mid-sized and small schools on the court, on the fields, and on our campuses. Competitive spirit between athletic rivals can be a powerful motivator and bond when harnessed properly. Following the example of the late Dave Gavitt, Providence College can be a leader in this new conference athletically and otherwise. Competitive rivalries between athletic programs and fruitful relationships conducive for mutual enrichment and collaboration between other campus leaders stand to be developed between these schools that share so much in mission and seek most faithfully to preserve the tradition of Big East basketball unadulterated by destructive football-centric interests. This is one more thing to celebrate as we cheer on the Friars in tonight’s Big East championship game. The novelty of this new conference is solidarity between schools and with tradition. Go Friars!

An ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “Requiem for the Big East,” will air Sunday, March 16 at 9 PM. Read a Friar fan’s perspective on the documentary here.

A Niche Discussion of Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Responsibilities

IMG_497604574877~2Matthew Henry Smith, ’16

There is a part of the abortion debate about which you may be unaware. It’s one I hold a queer stake in, and one that you should be talking about.

I was reading the Providence Journal this morning while enjoying a big bowl of Raisin Bran when I came across an article by Randal Edgar profiling four pieces of legislation in Rhode Island that have to do with abortion. The last proposal Edgar noted was about sex selection, “Yet another [bill] would ban abortions in cases where ‘the decision is based on the sex of the unborn child.’”

To preface, those close to me know that I have a pragmatic opinion about abortion legislation. I dream of a world without abortion, but I know the way to get there isn’t to legislate against it. I understand some of the reasons why people pursue abortion and also understand the reasons why people abhor the practice.

Inasmuch as I want to see the end of abortion, I know that abortion won’t end before poverty and misogyny end. I know that abortion decreases when pregnancy decreases and that pregnancy decreases when women in every country are educated. My life-respecting philosophy in regards to reproduction involves an approach that is a multi-faceted combination of abstinence and safe-sex education. And I know that a view this moderate might appear a cop-out for some of my friends on the polar ends of this issue, (some of whom might think that, as a man, I have not right to have an opinion at all). I’ll tell you that I have arrived here after years of deliberation. It is also a position that will call me to shout, not at right-to-life marches, but in support of women’s groups who fight for equal access to education and resources. What’s more, my view on this is just one element of many in my philosophy on environmentalism and human population, (you should know I am not a speciestist).

Further, if you believe as I do that there is an enormous difference between abortion and contraception then you should consider that the institutions we think of as the abortion industry provide many service to prevent abortion (by preventing pregnancy). They offer sexual health and wellness amenities for men and women in need, educating on safe sex and pregnancy prevention, etc.  For more on this I recommend that you watch Aljazeera America’s fabulous documentary The Abortion War.

But while the majority of this issue – and the solution – centers around equity there is a part of it that does not.

And I have a queer stake in some legislation rising in Rhode Island.

America critiques other cultures for post-birth sex-selection. We look at China’s preference for males and we shake our heads. But our prejudice, inconsistent as it might be, is rooted in a far greater hubris. It is quieter, cloaked in the laurels of scientific achievement and discussed in thin-lipped, even tones. In America we terminate pregnancies when we don’t prefer the sex of the baby.

That is if it even gets that far. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, (or PGD) is the practice of fertilizing multiple eggs and then determining the traits of each. This often results in a person choosing only to implant the fertilized eggs with the traits they prefer. Often, this means that parents are choosing only to implant eggs of the desired sex. I’m not opening up the “where does life begin” argument. But I’m saying we need to talk about what we allow ourselves to expect from our kids and where we think we get the authority to have a sex preference in the first place.

There are two queer reasons why sex selection in preimplantation and pregnancy termination is unjust. The first is that it is another way our culture promotes the sex binary. We choose to believe that people are either males or females and, when a person is born with XXY chromosomes or ambiguous genitalia, we take away their sex identity and make them either male or female surgically. According to ISNA.org, incidents of “intersex condition” are 1 in 2000. This means that there are more people who are intersex than there are people with cystic fibrosis. This means that there are more people who are intersex in the world than there are Jews.

You can see how many people are degraded by the sex binary. When they are born we often assign them a sex surgically. I have spoken with people who defend parents in this case saying; “they thought they were doing the best thing for their child.” The argument is that parents just want their kids to grow up and have normal sexual relationships. But when we “fix” our intersex children to fit our sex binary, (or never allow them to be born), we reaffirm a dysphoric cultural paradigm that says the following: Happiness and achievement in its highest form is sexual and procreative. I believe this to be patently false. And so there is a great risk of intersex discrimination with PGD and sex-selective pregnancy termination.

The second queer reason to reject the practice of sex selection is that it reaffirms a cultural ignorance of the differences between sex and gender. While someone might choose to implant or terminate a zygote based on the knowledge that it is male or female, there is just no telling whether or not that male or female will (or would have) go up (or grown up) to be a boy or girl. We default to the cisgender  “rule” and in much the same way that we default to heterosexism. When we partake in sex selection we promote cisgender privilege and reject the dignity of trans people. When we choose not to carry a female fetus to term because we want a boy we are fooling ourselves into think we can choose gender.

We cannot.

So this is my queer stake in this issue. I’d like you to care about it. But even if you don’t, even if you are so far to the left that I appear to you some misplaced queer zealot, you still have a stake in this. Because this isn’t a faith argument about the origin of personhood: it’s a rallying cry for the unmasking of the illusion of human control.  And whether this law comes to pass or not, Friars, consider the assumptions you might hold about your future kids. Would you love your intersex child if love meant loving their birth body? Do you dream of one day having a “boy” OR a “girl?” Do you buy into this illusionary market of control?

It’s time to think about these tough questions.

The Communication Challenge

Guest Chat by Maria Costa, PC ’16.

It’s Friday (thank God). Finally done with class for the day, I’m sitting in front of my computer. My thumbs skate across the glassy 4 ½ inch screen of my phone as I take breaks in between my rounds of Candy Crush to text my friends from home and check what’s going on in the Twittersphere. I have about 5 windows open all at once on the computer screen, listening to Spotify, occasionally glancing at Facebook and doing some online shopping, texting my PC friends through iMessage to make plans for the night, and keeping a blank Word document up just so I can reassure myself that I thought about getting a head-start on homework for the weekend. As I’m flipping back and forth between each of my little windows, it strikes me. This is kind of excessive, isn’t it? Naaah. It’s Friday, I deserve a break, and this is fun. But it’s not just Friday. It’s every day. I constantly have my phone on me, and I can never stop checking it. I need to know if I have any new emails, new texts, new tweets, or likes on Facebook or Instagram. My phone is always safe and snug in a pocket where I can feel it vibrate to tell me someone is trying to talk to me or is affirming my words or photos. It’s become a habit, a bad one, and it interrupts daily interactions. I’ve realized that it is excessive – perhaps it’s just me, but I sense that this is a fairly common scenario, and it’s time for us to take on a new challenge.

Our heads are down.

Walking across campus, before classes, in dining halls, and even in small social gatherings with friends, our heads are constantly bowed, as if in reverence, but instead, in a relentless trance of technology. Our ears are always perked for the sound of our phones buzzing, offering some new slice of information. No one can wait; there is always a sense of urgency to whatever lies in the colorful world behind the glass (or plastic) screen, and no one can stop checking again and again what you could be missing out on if you ignore the incessant updates. We cannot help ourselves. Every text, tweet, Facebook post, and like on Instagram is essential. The virtual universe offers us an escape from the demands of our lives and a window into the lives and thoughts of others.

We are a generation of extreme multi-taskers; we are alerted by every slight illumination of our smartphones, and of course, would not dream of depriving them of attention. Our attentiveness to any task is always shared with our focus on the wired world, so that our homework and readings are supplied with all-too-easy reasons to procrastinate, and texting one person while talking to another characterizes many of our conversations. This techno-savvy world demands us to keep up with each small detail that occurs throughout the day; otherwise we will be left in a dark, unknowing state. So this is why we sit across the table from family members and friends with our hands gripped tightly around the slender bodies of our smartphones, half tuned out from what they are saying – because society dictates that face-to-face communication is an unnecessary waste of time. But our personal electronic interactions are unnatural for our social need for human contact. If we keep looking down at our phones and ignore the world, not only will we continue to walk into those weird, hip-height poles that are in the middle of sidewalks all over campus, but we will condemn ourselves to walk down a path of human isolation.

True effective communication involves talking to someone face to face. While texting someone, reading their tweets, looking at their pictures on Facebook and Instagrams, and even just talking on the phone is fun, convenient, and easy, none of these methods of communication allow you to see their face and their body language, and therefore get a true sense of how the person you’re talking to is feeling or reacting. As we rely on virtual communication and favor it over more personal interactions, we have begun to lose our social skills and our appreciation for taking the time to communicate – to just chat for no reason, share funny stories without a 140-character limit, and appreciate a beautiful sunset without looking at it through a filtered lens.

The technological revolution has presented us with countless benefits that make life easier to capture memorable moments, connect with old friends and acquaintances, and communicate with others in quick, easy ways. We have fully embraced the advances that technology has offered us, and they absolutely are a tremendous aid in our fast-paced, stressful society of appointments and deadlines. However, the problem arises when we begin to take advantage of the comfort of technology and take its simplicity to an extreme. We look down at our phones to in fact avoid eye contact and interaction with others, we play silly app games just to waste time when we could be spending it more meaningfully otherwise, and lose the appreciation and happiness found in moments surrounded by the beauty of nature or the warmth of loved ones. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is essential to have down time to just relax, I know how easy it is to get wrapped up in finding solace in the humor of my Twitter timeline, getting lost in the artsy photos and “tbt”s of Instagram, and “trying just one more time” on Flappy Bird. It’s addictive.

This is the problem. The constant checking of our texts and social media have become our habits, our phones an extension of ourselves. It is much too easy to fall into the habit of picking up our phones the second that we have nothing to do in order to check our news feeds and notifications and block out the stresses and tasks of the day. But when we do this, there is an abundance of real life and experiences that we are missing out on.  The virtual world can wait – it’s not going anywhere.

So the challenge is to put down the phone. Turn it off. Put it in your backpack, your purse, or somewhere it won’t bother you. Use this as a potential Lenten sacrifice. Test yourself and reward yourself, for every half hour to fifteen minutes you spend on your phone looking at social media or just texting, make sure you spend an equal amount of time calling someone and having a real conversation, reading something that isn’t for school, or meeting friends for a quick lunch or coffee. Or if you’re a Twitter addict, discipline yourself so that after you’ve written 3 tweets in a day, you have to stay off of twitter for (at least) the next 3 hours. Challenge yourself to always keep your phone off the table at meals, and hold a real conversation with the people you’re sitting across from, one where you respect the people you’re with by paying attention to them instead of what’s happening on your phone. I know it might be tough, it is a true challenge to leave that virtual universe behind – especially when you are already in the habit of keeping it as a daily part of your life. But I challenge you to try it. Get together with your friends instead of just talking on a group text. Read a book or a newspaper instead of your Twitter feed. Sit and look at the snow falling or the beautiful colors of the sky and write about it or just simply appreciate it instead of Intagramming it. Take pictures for the memories instead of for your profile picture on Facebook. Enjoy what life has to offer, because each moment is fleeting and precious, but the internet is forever.

The PC Monologues

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert ’15

If I had to count on my hands the number of time I have heard: “But this is a CATHOLIC school” in response to different socially liberal initiatives at PC, I would have to grow five new sets of hands. Many students often get upset when the typical Catholic status quo is questioned at PC and I, being a fully disclosed social liberal, even have to say that this is warranted. PC is a Catholic school and I have to accept and respect the fact that it has the right to refuse certain events on campus. However, even though I am a practicing Catholic, I also believe in the institution of gay marriage, the freedom to divorce, and even the opportunity for women to become priests. Yet, I also am a sister, a daughter, a friend, a student, an employee, a Modern Family fan, a traveler, a Mid-Atlantic enthusiast, and a lover of Adele’s music. So yes, even though I am a faith-filled Catholic, I am also many other things. Just as I chose PC because I loved that I could actively practice my faith, I also chose it for its Social Work program, its sense of community, and even its fabulous gym. People often claim that PC is too homogenous and then some of us get upset with each other when we try to break the mold, perhaps even cause some controversy. And so, I am afraid that too many students are afraid to pursue avenues that are perhaps too different from the norm.

Nevertheless, this past week, a group of PC students did actually succeed in breaking the PC mold. These students put on the annual production of the “Vagina Monologues.” Although the show is not supported or funded by the college, it has become a tradition for students to put the show on and raise money for “V-Day,” a catalyst movement that encourages donations for women’s organizations as well as awareness about the realities of sexual violence. This year, the PC students donated the proceeds from the performances, held at the Avon Theatre, to the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island as well as the V-Day Organization. The actual performance comprises various stories that women experience with their vaginas. These stories range in context from childbirth, to sexual pleasure, to rape. In essence, the performance explores all facets of female sexuality as well as female biological capacities. It investigates the entire scope of the female reproductive system in a way that validates and sympathizes with the characters as well as educates the audience about the realities that cannot be silenced, concerning the positive and negative experiences that women have with their vaginas. Of course, the title alone, as well as some of the stories in the performance, do inspire some controversy, but that is to expected with any kind of work at the intersection of social activism and art.

And, no, this article is not a plea for PC to change its rule and host the Monologues. It is instead intended to praise the sheer courage of the students who focused on a part of their identities that does not exactly coincide with the conservatism that accompanies the identity of being students of a Catholic institution. Instead of waiting for approval from the school or simply giving up because of the difficulty involved in hosting a production that is not sponsored by PC, these young women decided to do something different: they rolled up their sleeves and made their own rules. Too often, PC students forget that the college does not have to be their only avenue for personal fulfillment or change. Although it is more convenient and, perhaps, more comforting to attend an institution that jives with all of our personal beliefs, it is unfortunately impossible for any organization to completely understand the wholes of any of our identities. So, although I believe it is our place to challenge our school to be better, it is also our responsibility to develop parts of ourselves that are outside of the PC mold. I am very proud to be a friar, but it is not my only identity. Being a PC student is not my only interest. This is why the organizers and performers of the Vagina Monologues deserve a huge “kudos” for their work on a piece of art that is not part of PC. They are fulfilling themselves as people and, perhaps most importantly, seeking to educate and raise money for a cause that speaks to them. They set an excellent example of putting the motto of PC into work: “transform yourself, transform society.”

You may never agree with the production of the Vagina Monologues. You may never believe in anything that challenges the social Catholic constructs of our school. This is just fine. I respect you, just as I expect that you should respect me. We are all different and we all can learn from each other: I fully believe that. However, no matter what you believe, it may be prudent to look to the group of PC students who put on the Monologues as an example. They cared about something and put into action a plan that both fulfilled their interests and helped a cause in which they believe. And while they did it without the approval of their school, they did it with focused eyes, open hearts, and hands stretched out to vulnerability. They took a chance and stayed true to themselves. So, no matter what your interest, remember to stay true to yourself. Challenge when necessary, listen, learn, talk, do not wait, be courageous, and be you.

 

After all, your own monologue is still a work in progress. It is not going to write itself, you know.

Controversial Talk Postponed By Sponsor

Breaking News

Dr. Matthew Cuddeback, sponsor of the controversial “Who Am I?” talk by Dr. Michelle Cretella, has announced the postponement of the event due to concern that “Dr. Cretella may be the object of animus were she to present at PC next week.” Dr. Cuddeback alleges inconsistency in campus support for academic freedom. But, as has been pointed out, many contest not the event itself but rather the way in which it has been advertised. The announcement was made by email to to the PC faculty at about 9:40 Thursday morning. The full text of Dr. Cuddeback’s email is below:

Dear Colleagues,

I extend my appreciation to those who have defended my arrangement of the talk by Dr. Michelle Cretella, MD. I arranged this talk—as well two others still to come this semester—in response to the call by Dr. Nick Longo, Dr. Chris Arroyo and other signers of a November 3 email to department chairs, for faculty to initiate programming around the issue of homosexuality. I am struck that many of the indignant voices raised for academic freedom in the wake of the cancellation of Dr. Corvino’s talk have been absent or ambivalent in the discussion of Dr. Cretella’s talk. Where are those voices now? Some have been silent. Some are harrumphing about NARTH, science, and reparative therapy. Some, who proposed to advocate for a campus-wide discussion that would include all perspectives, are trying to shame faculty who invite a speaker holding one of those perspectives, as irresponsibly insensitive to LGBT students. Do they believe that the freedom to speak belongs only to those who agree with their position?

I must observe that while Dr. Cretella is identified on the flyer as a board member of NARTH, the subject of her talk is not reparative therapy. Rather, as the flyer reads: “in this presentation, Dr. Cretella will describe her journey to navigate the controversial issue of homosexuality as a physician and a Catholic.” Dr. Cretella is not a therapist, and had no intent to speak as one. Her intent was to speak of her journey, as a physician, from rejecter to appreciator of the Catholic and natural law traditions concerning homosexuality. Her account deserves to be listened to—in the way that, at a university, such an account should be listened to rather than shouted down or shamed before it is heard.

Because I sense that Dr. Cretella may be the object of animus were she to present at PC next week, I have advised her that we shall postpone her presentation.

I believe that open academic discussion of homosexuality, from different perspectives, can be fruitful for our campus. I would ask my faculty colleagues to support the two talks that I have scheduled for early March and early April (see below). Perhaps some of the department chairs and program directors who signed the November 3 email from Nick Longo, and who have sponsored other events surrounding the topic of homosexuality, might be willing to serve sponsors of these talks too.

Respectfully, with my best regards,

Matthew Cuddeback

Assistant Professor of Philosophy

 

THE TWO TALKS:

The Global AIDS Epidemic: Hope Through a Person-Centered Response

Dr. Timothy Flanigan, MD, Brown University Medical School

Tuesday, March 4

7:00pm

Moore III

 

The Catholic Church and Homosexuality:  Charity and Clarity

Fr. Paul Check, Executive Director of Courage International

   With a member of Courage International

Wednesday, April 9

4:00pm

Ruane LL 05