Happy Thanksgiving!

To Our Readers:

It’s been a full ten days since we’ve last posted to Friarside Chats. We’re sure you’ve felt the pre-holiday heat as well. The amount of school work piled on before breaks makes it hard to find time to eat or sleep, and maintaining a commentary blog on top of it all proved nearly impossible. But hey, Providence College- we made it!

In this ten day hiatus, there’s been much to talk about. There’s been a struggle and ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Rumors have been flying about cabinet appointments for the second Obama administration. In an appeal to consumers, stores have decided to open for Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day itself; is this worker abuse?

This Thanksgiving, we would like to thank our readers for their support of and interest in this developing project. We’re thankful for many hundreds of readers who have viewed our blog multiple thousands of times. We thank you for agreeing and for disagreeing. We are thankful for the opportunity to share our thoughts and to hear yours.

We hope that you’ll stay Friarside as we resume the chat. Join in with comments! Share with friends! Most importantly though, we wish you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving. See you in Providence on Monday!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Friarside Chats!

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Reality Check: No Conscience?

A Scrutiny of Dubious Commentary in the Post-Election Cowl

Nick Wallace ’14

Reading the commentary section from last week’s Cowl, it seemed to me that Providence College had found its Antichrist. The members of the section were charged with giving their thoughts regarding the outcome of the presidential election in one hundred words or less. The tone of the page in general was overwhelmingly hostile towards President Obama. This is not surprising given the conservative tendencies of the PC community, which was made even more evident by Mitt Romney’s triumphant PC straw poll victory over the incumbent (Romney received over 63 percent of the votes from PC students). However, while all are entitled to their opinions, the cynicism shown by some members of the commentary staff illustrates the gridlock and defiance that is preventing the American political system from progressing towards prosperity.

Firstly, it should be noted how little the President of the United States controls the economy. While the modern presidency has certainly expanded the individual powers of the chief executive, the American public tends to think the President has the power to do anything he desires. The fact is, however, that Congress makes the budget. The Federal Reserve is charged with manipulating inflation. The millions of members of the federal bureaucracy ultimately implement the laws passed by Congress. International actors such as other nations and multinational corporations are almost (if not fully) inseparably tied to the American economy. For all intents and purposes, it is fair to say that no single man or woman will ever cause the GDP of a nation to flourish or fumble; it is always is a multitude of factors.

With that being said, certain statements by the commentary writers were alarming. One affirms, “Obama won, but on the bright side he can never win again.” Another boldly predicts, “If you think change will come out of this election, think again. Unemployment will not decrease. The federal debt will not decrease.” It is not the content of the statements that disturbs me as much as the tone. Pessimism and bitterness cause the very gridlock we continue to see in Congress, in which neither Democrats nor Republicans are willing to compromise. How can we expect change and progress if nobody is willing to negotiate?

One reflection struck me as especially close-minded. The author declares, “Obama’s victory proclaims that most Americans who cast a ballot don’t vote with their consciences. Here’s to another four years of blatant disregard for the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty, presidential support for homosexual marriage, a warm relationship with Planned Parenthood, and adamant support of abortion and contraceptives.” While the comment is strictly religiously conservative, I wasn’t personally aware that anybody who didn’t follow canonical scripture word for word was “without a conscience.” This personal attack is once again a perfect example of refusal to accept cooperation as a viable option. A fundamental premise of both liberty and democracy is that everybody is entitled to his or her own beliefs, but this comment is closer to horrid hate speech than constructive criticism.

I do not mean to generalize the entire commentary staff as Obama hating, conservative, and unwilling to negotiate with the opposite side of the political spectrum. One writer was enthusiastic about Obama’s reelection, and another shared my viewpoint- “The President alone is not the sole figure who will help shape our future.”

Moreover, it is understandable why the PC community may be upset with President Obama. A strong majority of PC students come from white families from the upper-middle class who may have seen or might soon see an increase in taxes. Many PC students, as well as their parents, family members, and friends may have lost jobs, and the economy hasn’t recovered as quickly as anybody would like for it to.

But the reality is that this is the man who will be in the Oval Office for the next four years. An acceptance of this fact rather than willful disparagement of the President will be more beneficial for the country, which is in desperate need of compromise and cooperation.

The referenced commentary can be accessed through this link via The Cowl online

Popping the Bubble at Providence College

A Senior Discovers and Breaks Through the Walls that Divide Our Neighborhood

A Guest Chat by Chris Tansey ’13

As you walk towards Phillips Memorial Library, a large concrete façade looms in front of you. The combination of construction workers yelling and metal clashing with concrete hits your ear drums. The foundation for this building is already in place. When finished, it will be the 30 million dollar Ruane Center for the Humanities. You take a sharp right and head towards Slavin Lawn. As you walk down the newly paved sidewalk, the beautiful Harkins Hall materializes to your left. Built in 1917 and recently renovated, it is the most significant structure on the Providence College campus. As you walk past Harkins, Slavin Lawn emerges. Behind the Lawn sits the Ruane Atrium, another multi-million dollar building. It is late October, and the trees surrounding the lawn are bright yellows, reds and oranges. The grass itself is a healthy green. Pumpkinfest is in full swing. There is a hayride, a pumpkin-painting station, free food, and vendors selling everything from cupcakes to flowers. You see children dressed up in Halloween costumes and their parents laughing and enjoying themselves. You are a resident of the Chad Brown projects, and you were not invited to this festival.

I am a white twenty one year old male who goes to Providence College. I am not a resident of Chad Brown. I have lived a comfortable life in which I have never been faced with financial adversity. Most of my fellow students fall under the same category. Of course, you’ve heard it all before. The stigma is that Providence College’s student body is uniformly upper-middle class, white, and many times narrow-minded. Some of the accusations are unjust, and Providence College is very conscious of its lack of diversity within the student body. However, while the Providence administration has been trying to fix the diversity issue, it has lost sight of the community surrounding PC. The Chad Brown subsidized housing complex lies about 4 football fields from Providence College’s innovative Smith Fine Arts Center. The residential side streets off of Eaton are less than twenty yards from campus. In spite of that, neither of these neighborhoods were invited to take part in Providence’s community outreach festival, “Pumpkinfest,” on Sunday October 28th. Both are predominantly lower-income, minority communities.

As I dropped off fliers to the houses lining Bradley and Sharon Street, I realized that no Congress member (Pumpkinfest is partially sponsored by Student Congress) had been assigned to hand out fliers to any other neighborhoods. When I suggested that Congress correct this and volunteered to distribute the fliers, I was told that the SAIL (Student Activities-Involvement-Leadership) office would not allow it. I was utterly shocked at this response. How could the office of Student Involvement and Leadership not want us to get involved and be leaders in our local communities, the communities that need our involvement the most? I went to the SAIL office to find answers to my questions.

I marched into the SAIL office without an appointment to speak to an administrator. But after waiting five minutes, I was led into the office of one of the SAIL officials. I told her my name and my story about wanting to get the other communities near Providence College involved with Pumpkinfest. I asked her why they were not invited. She told me that there was just not enough room, that Pumpkinfest could only have so many people at the event at once. Upon first consideration, this is a valid argument. There is only so much food and so many pumpkins to go around. However, the event also includes a hayride, vendors, live music and a costume competition. Could having more people at an event like this really spoil it? It would be easy enough to order more food and pumpkins and invite the other surrounding communities. My response to her was along these lines. The administrator then moved to a different argument. She stated that Pumpkinfest was specifically an “olive branch” to the River and Sharon Street communities because they had to deal with PC students drinking habits. Another valid point, until it’s looked into a little further. Not that I know from experience, but Providence College students do not party on River Avenue. Where do they party? Eaton Street. What bars do they go to? They go to bars on Douglas Ave, a block away from the Chad Brown community. Again, I responded to her along these lines.

At this point I could tell she was considering the issue. She finally seemed to relent without fully agreeing with my idea to hand out fliers on Chad Brown and Eaton Street. Her acquiescence was something along the lines of “Well do you have any experience in the inner city?” I told her that I played sports in the inner city back home in Washington DC, and that one day I would like to work in law enforcement there. She seemed a little bit surprised and responded with something like, “That’s good, because a lot of students here do not have that experience.” We do not have that experience, because we do not connect with the less fortunate communities enough. And we do not connect with the less fortunate communities enough, because we do not have the experience to do so. And so everything comes full circle. Providence College is a beautiful and perfectly inaccessible bubble.

I do not write to point fingers or accost the administration for not doing more to connect our campus our surrounding area. In fact, to the SAIL administrators credit, she later came up to me and brought up the idea of handing a flier out to the Recreation center in Chad Brown; a small step in the right direction. Providence College is a great school and has a lot of strong qualities. I write to affirm the need for more participation in outlying and more marginalized communities, not to attack anyone for lack of it. It is time, as a school and as students, to be active, take initiative and be leaders not just on campus and on River Avenue, but on Eaton Street and in the Chad Brown neighborhood as well.

Chris Tansey is a senior English major from Washington, DC.