Nick Wallace ’14
(Blog Admin’s Note: This piece was written on Friday night with the event fresh on the author’s mind. Finals can be blamed for the delay in turn-around time for posting it.)
1. Administrators refused to admit that the event itself was largely in response to the rally against racism just two days earlier, which was covered by numerous local news outlets.
The administrators in the room, including Father Shanley, proclaimed that the event had been “planned for months,” and had nothing to do with the “Hoodie Day Rally for Social Justice” that took place this past Wednesday. However, it is hard not to be skeptical of these assertions, being that the rally against racism ended just before 5 pm, and an email to the student body with information about the special dinner with Fr. Shanley was sent the same night at 8 pm. When is the last time you as a PC student have received an email blast after administrative offices close at 4:30? Look through your email archives on outlook, and you will realize that you do not get emails from the school after the offices close, simply because all mass emails must be approved by SAIL. Now, I know that administrative emails do not have to be approved by SAIL, but I am still reluctant to believe that an event with such weighty subject matter, if it truly had been planned for months, would have only been advertised less than 48 hours before it occurred. Therefore, if this event were truly planned beforehand, the email would have been sent much earlier in the week to bolster student participation and interest.
2. Diversity is (slowly) increasing.
Whether or not you like it, PC is slowly becoming a more diverse place (at least in terms of racial diversity). According to Fr. Shanley, in 2008 “students of color” made up less than 9 % of the populous at Providence College. More, students of minority status make up 16 % of the incoming class of 2017. That is almost a 100% increase in five years. Shanley said that there is no quota for minority students, but that every year, his goal is to see the number increase. Nevertheless, diversity amongst the student body means little when…
3. There is little racial diversity amongst the faculty.
Students at the dinner with Father Shanley voiced concerns about not being able to relate to professors here on campus, and rightfully so. When asked why more professors of color were not hired, Shanley argued that Rafael Zapata, the Chief Diversity Officer of the school, would be more equipped to answer the question. The student courageously asserted that she did not want to hear Rafael speak, and that she instead wanted to hear what the President of the College had to say. Shanley responded by saying that minorities are less likely to be enrolled in PhD programs than whites, and subsequently it is hard to convince the very few professors of color to teach here. While this is confirmed by empirical research, perhaps professors of color are choosing other schools because they feel as if they would not belong at PC, or that PC is not taking the proper steps to protect faculty members of all races. Being that the recent rally against racism was organized by a professor who was a victim of racist emails and tweets, (which, by the way, the administration never publicly denounced via email) it is by no means ridiculous to assert that PC has created an environment in which both professors and students of color alike do not feel comfortable living. If you were a prominent professor of color looking for a teaching position, would you be particularly inclined to seek a position at a school with an apparent diversity problem that refuses to include certain groups of people into its notice of non-discrimination? Which brings me to my next point…
4. The student body wants the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” included into the non-discrimination policy.
Student Congress passed a piece of legislation, which addressed the issue, two weeks ago. The Faculty Senate overwhelmingly backed the recommendation just recently. Now is the time for the administration to act. As stated in my last article, Fr. Shanley told The Cowl in 2010 that PC does not discriminate based on sexual orientation. However, in 2010 he was still unwilling to include the term, which would officially prohibit PC from discriminating against an individual based on his/her sexual orientation. Three years later, the issue is still pressing. However, other Catholic schools have taken the initiative to include “sexual orientation” into their non-discrimination policies. Perhaps this is what is needed to convince Shanley to concede. It should be noted the importance of including gender identity into the non-discrimination policy as well. Doing so does not condone the lifestyle. It would not, by any means, show that Providence College endorses or advertises the way of life. It would simply allow a group of people on campus to be legally protected against discrimination. It is not much to ask, and it does not compromise Providence College’s Catholic identity; it is an issue of equality. Implement the piece of legislation passed by Student Congress, and allow these human beings to feel safer on campus.
5. Students want to see the Shan-Man at more events, not just men’s basketball games.
Sure, he isn’t a superhero, and obviously can’t be in two places at once. But with issues like racism still pressing here on campus, it would have been both reassuring and encouraging to see Fr. Shanley at the rally. I understand his role as President involves countless hours of traveling around the country, recruiting students/faculty members, and bartering with alumni for more money. But a lack of transparency clearly exists. If he can make it a priority to attend men’s basketball and ice hockey games, Fr. Shanley can make it a priority to take the issue of diversity and racism “head-on.” Attending the rally on Wednesday would have been a way of doing so, while subsequently increasing collaboration and transparency.
6. Fr. Shanley apologized for not taking action when he should have.
When hearing Fr. Shanley speak, it doesn’t take too long to realize that the man is both very intelligent and sincere. With that being said, he said that with hindsight, if he had a time machine and could do one thing over, he would have released a statement to the entire school defending the diversity initiative that was attacked by a misinformed Cowl article earlier this semester. He proclaimed that he was human, and that humans make mistakes. I give credit to our president for acknowledging his faults. But is it too late to issue such a statement? Clearly diversity is still an ongoing topic on campus. A school-wide email wrapping up the year as a whole, and addressing the school’s intentions moving forward with diversity, would still be appropriate and effective.
7. It will take time to see change, but that does not mean we should not seek it.
Diversity is something that cannot be achieved over night. I understand that it will take years to assess the effectiveness of PC’s current diversity initiatives. Nonetheless, this should not be used as an excuse for inactivity. Racism is clearly still a problem on this campus. If it weren’t, there would not be the many reports of racial profiling of students by security guards on campus. There would not be instances in which racist remarks were graffitied on bathroom doors. Finally, teachers and students would not be prejudged and even demonized because of the color of their skin. As long as these realities exist, we should not patiently await for diversity to arrive; we must actively pursue it.
8. The diversity initiative will be considered complete once nobody on this campus, despite his/her ethnic background, religious preference, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or skin color, feels marginalized.
This is pretty self-explanatory, and the end to the diversity initiative is not in sight. When will we have achieved diversity? The answer is when we do not have to put on events like the one that took place tonight.
This event failed in the sense that Fr. Shanley did very little talking. Instead, he was an active listener in a seminar-type atmosphere, only speaking when being directly called out by students. But this was also a good thing; this event was successful in that it gave students the opportunity to interact with administrators and voice their opinions in a professional way. In fact, much of the time was spent asking students for their suggestions on how the administration can make this campus more equipped to handle the issue of diversity. Here are mine:
-Add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into the non-discrimination policy of both students and faculty members.
-Require Safe Space training of all students, faculty members, and administrators (I stole this one from fellow writer Matt Smith, but I wholeheartedly agree with it)
-Train security guards about the dangers of racial profiling and stereotyping, and how to avoid these issues. Moreover, if the problem persists, hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
-Diversify the theology department to include classes about different religions and cultures. Furthermore, allow these classes to counts towards our theology requirements.
-Require service learning in all classes that will satisfy the diversity requirement of the new core curriculum. Learning about an issue and experiencing it firsthand are two completely different things. It would allow PC students to get more involved within the city of Providence, while subsequently opening their eyes to new perspectives.
-Emphasize the fact that diversity goes beyond skin color. PC will not truly become more diverse until starts reaching out students of lower socioeconomic backgrounds, different geographical regions of the country, and who do not self identify as Catholic.
-Publicly announce your views via email, especially during a time of controversy. Unfortunately, most students have not read the newly revised mission statement or the strategic plan. Email is the best way to reach most of the constituents.
-Continue to provide events like this one, along with the “First Friar Forum on Diversity,” in which students can voice their opinions to the administration.
-Keep the Development of Western Civilization Program, but challenge the currents of Western intellectual history with a more diverse array of western and non-western perspectives. Currently, the program seems more interested in developing graduating classes of Catholic apologists than well rounded thinkers.
I have always found it interesting that Fr. Shanley’s self-proclaimed number-one concern is currently “finding a name to put on the school of business.” As the President of our College, he ought donations from alumni to increase our endowment. But the truth is that with the current marginalization of specific groups of people on this campus, it may be the case that graduating students are less inclined to give back to the school as long as it continues its backwardness. Certainly, this applies to myself. This dinner was a small step in the right direction, and I look forward to seeing administrators get “down and dirty” over the summer to fix these problems.