Takeaway Points from “Embracing Diversity: An Invitation to Conversation with Fr. Shanley Regarding the College’s Core Values”

NickDefaultNick 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.


9 thoughts on “Takeaway Points from “Embracing Diversity: An Invitation to Conversation with Fr. Shanley Regarding the College’s Core Values”

  1. Nick,

    Probably the best article you’ve written for Friarside Chats. My only complaint is please stop with the haughty assumption that Student Congress “speaks for the students of PC.” As everyone who is not on Congress knows, the organization is a collection of ego-centric, self-aggrandizing individuals who like to pretend what they vote on actually makes a difference. You of all Congress members should not claim to speak for the student body, as you ran for your position unopposed. Like most students who will read this article, I largely agree with you; but your message is diluted with the distasteful tone of greater-than-thou Congressiness (also: can I submit a bill that Congress vote on making “Congressiness” an official word in the PC dictionary?).

    God/Allah/Yahweh/athiest permabeing bless,

    • Dear PC_Moderate,

      With all due respect, as I believe it’s 100% necessary to debate in this kind of forum, I would only like to ask that if you are going to ask Nick to stop making “assumptions” then please stop making assumptions yourself. It is not fair to speak for “everyone who is not on Congress,” nor to say that “most students who will read this article” will disagree. Furthermore, the fact that Nick ran unopposed suggests that the student body does indeed support him because no one wanted to run against him. So either people thought he was a good choice, or no one else cares enough to want to run for a position on Congress- which despite your harsh accusations, at least the students involved in Congress care enough to dedicate their time to trying to make a positive difference on campus.

      And in stark contrast to Nick’s constant display of respect for the side with which he is disagreeing, I find your salutation “God/Allah/Yahweh/athiest permabeing bless” disrespectful and sarcastic. Healthy debate and discussion on campus will go no where with this kind of sarcastic and haughty attitude, in my humble opinion.

    • Dear anonymous internet troll trying to tear down a respectable student –

      “As everyone who is not in Congress knows” – you are aware of the implication here that you, a member of the student body, are somehow claiming to represent the people you say his position does not let him represent? Your holier than thou garbage once again shows you are either hopelessly delusional or truly unaware of your utter lack of intellectual ability. If he ran unopposed, perhaps you should have gotten your lazy self out of your mothers basement and ran against him since you are so disenfranchised and all. But let’s be honest, someone as lazy as you clearly won’t be running for anything unless it’s the last doughnut in Ray.


      P,S; your attempt at religious humor in your salutation failed as it is a sin to write Yaweah in Judiasm – opt for G-d next time.

    • I hear its cool to call people arrogant from behind a fake name. If you wanna have a real discussion about your opinion of Nick and his articles, Suite 509 is ready to talk.

    • PC_Moderate,

      First of all, if you have such an issue with what Nick has to say, then don’t read it, and furthermore do not leave rude and insulting comments.Your comments are more about insulting Nick than what he actually has to say. So if you have a problem, you should take it up with him personally and I’m positive that he would love to hear what you have to say (but you probably won’t since you’re such a coward and won’t even use your own name).
      Second of all, the world needs more people like Nick Wallace. It is his kind of personality and confidence (or what you refer to as his ego) that can help ignite change for the better in our society. Like you said, a lot of people agree with what Nick has to say, and would therefore want the changes that he speaks of actually occur. Without people like Nick, no changes would occur and our society would be hindered because of it.
      So if you have such a problem with Nick, you should take it up with him instead of posting anonymously and try to read what he is actually saying instead of insulting him as a person.

  2. Firstly, I attend Providence College I am white and I come from an extremely low income family. In addition, I am a first generation college student. Now, by PC standards I am in no way considered a minority, but a “disadvantaged student.” Now let’s use this term “minority” that society has coined, which as a lexical definition really is a smaller number represented as part of a whole, why are we to specifically throw out the term “diversity” but not understanding what that truly should entitle?
    If you look at many other universities, with the exception of state universities and Ivy Leagues, many other colleges are not that diversified and it wasn’t until the past decade that most colleges have been on a crusade to recruit students from Hispanic and African American backgrounds simply because they have to in order to meet up to the other standards put forth by Elite colleges. Now most qualified, what we are calling “minorities,” will go on to attend the Ivy Leagues, and even then their SAT scores aren’t on par with the rest of the student population. Statistics have shown as much as a 300-400 point difference in SAT scores.
    So where does this like Providence College? Well we are a Catholic institution and always will be. Moreover, we do not have the endowment to let every person come here for free like the Ivy Leagues and every other excellent minority has already been recruited. Now from what I observe, PC is letting under qualified minorities that apply in full scholarships, which I think is not fair simply because they come from a certain racial background. I am personally offended by this because my family and I lived impoverished my entire life with a $20,000< AGI and what do I get? Certainly not a full scholarship. I have a 3.9 GPA at PC and I can’t get anything from the school because I am disadvantaged, not a minority.
    Most catholic institutions are predominately white, given our historic religious background. Look at Boston College, Notre Dame, Villanova and Holy Cross and their minority rates aren’t much better. It wasn’t even until the 70s that our school did not even allow women. If we are going to go by Princeton Review’s ridiculous surveys, all of the schools listen above are on the list too.
    Let me propose this to the PC student population. Instead of using the term diversity, lets look at achieving a sense of student stratification at our school because there aren’t even different levels of white students except the prep school class. The only way to combat this issue is simply meeting every student’s full need and as I said previously, this is not possible because our endowment is only at about $200 million. We need to reach at least over $500 million before we can start offering generous aid packages like the other schools. Given that our school has only been operating less than 100 hundred years and many other institutions more than 200 hundred years I am sure PC will eventually be able to implement such policies but we cannot do so yet. Moreover, we have NO ASIANS at our school, does that not constitute diversity? And I am not talking about the international students either. Does the PC student population just want to diversify the school simply because they want to say they are doing so or is it a genuine concern? If so, I want to know why, give me a convincing argument as to why we should have a more diverse population. I am not saying I am against it, but I want a compelling argument as to why it benefits us.
    Furthermore, in regards to the faculty statement, I am not sure if this is your specific opinion or if this is coming from PC students but there is a lack of faculty diversity EVERYWHERE, http://www.browndailyherald.com/2012/10/01/u-renews-efforts-to-increase-faculty-diversity/, if you would like to read several articles from the Brown daily Herald perhaps the PC population will be better informed. Many universities are striving to recruit diverse faculty members, and you think we are going to get first dibs at PC on them? I mean come on everyone we aren’t going to Harvard. If you have a problem with ALL of this then do not come here, I mean really you are just nit picking at this point. Furthermore if people want to connect with faculty members more we certainly do have faculty members from ethnic background I can name about 5 right now if you all want to go to their office hours, because I have met every single one of them.
    We have diversity, how much more do you want? I think the school needs to focus on making the college more selective by lowering the acceptance rate and raising the average SAT scores.

    • to my above post, I dont mean to make a generalization and offend anyone saying that anyone who is considered a minority is underqualified, I just mean that I have met people here who are not taking advantage of their full scholarships. I want people here for the right reasons, and I want the PC student population to understand why we need diversity, not just stating that we do for statistics. I think on a whole our socioeconomic diversity policy should be evaluated, Not diversity by ethnicity. If the socioeconomic diversity is re-evaluated PC will certaintly have students from all backgrounds applying.

      This is not just an issue at our campus, but campus’ across the nation.

  3. It’s about money people. How much $$$ do you want to kick to minority students to reach diversity goals? Is it equitable to demand all white students pay the full nut so that all minority students receive partials?
    The exact same issues will be present –albeit with different percentages– in another decade. I say do a better job, but trust in your core values to give the most aid to merit scholars who are the most likely future alumni to keep a cycle of real accomplishment moving.

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