The Target We Put On Our Backs

NickDefaultNick Wallace ’14

Anybody who lives in an off-campus house at Providence College will tell you that there are two sides to the story. In many ways, living off campus is awesome. There is a sense of camaraderie among my housemates and myself. In fact, we just started an underground fraternity with the house next door…Delta Omega Epsilon! More, we do not have to deal with the “nanny-state” that PC executives and administrators force students to live under. Off campus, there are no parietals and no one to tell you not to drink hard liquor. There are no RA’s, no hall meetings, and no scheduled fire drills. We are truly on our own. And with that comes responsibility.

We have to pay rent (which, after adding in furniture, utilities, and food expenses, is STILL cheaper than living on campus), take out the garbage, and can’t call Fixit when something breaks. We have to plan ahead. Often times, I pack my bag for the entire day: books, computer, gym clothes, work clothes, business casual attire for a meeting, snacks, and lunch. Last but not least, those of us part of the 02908-crew do a decent amount of walking just to get to and from campus. When the weather is nice, it’s a pleasure; when the snow begins to fall, there may be some problems. All in all, for my particular case the good outweighs the bad. There is, of course, another aspect of living off-campus that I have not yet mentioned: sharing the community with local residents. And this is something we clearly need to do a better job of.

Every weekend, PC students destroy the community that we share with fellow residents. We drunkenly parade around Eaton Street, yelling, screaming, and damaging property. We leave solo cups all over the streets, start fights with one another, and prevent local families from living peacefully. Intoxicated PC students too often initiate verbal conflicts with the locals, which leads to larger altercations. Twice a year we aggressively flaunt our economic affluence to our neighbors by dressing up in country club attire for the Golf Party. And worst of all, when we go back and tell our friends about the neighborhood we live in, we refer to our surrounding community with terms like “the ghetto.” Each year, a new group of students barges into an already settled community and breaks it down. Before we were freshmen, these people lived here. When we graduate, these people will still live here. It is a privilege, not a right, to share this community with them. But our actions, whether or not they are intentional, are disrespectful and disgusting on many levels. As a result, the locals view us collectively as rich, white, troublemakers.

PC is currently buzzing about the latest crime alert notification we received over the weekend. Let me set a few things straight: First, I do not know the victim personally, but I wish him a speedy recovery. Secondly, I do not wish to trivialize the incident. This poor student does not deserve to be a statistic, and seems to have been at the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have been any of us at the corner of Pembroke and Eaton at 8:55 on a Friday night. Last, I do NOT want to suggest that incidents like this are caused by our clearly disrespectful actions listed above. The student who was recently injured was maliciously attacked, and by no means deserved in any way, shape, or form what happened him. However, I AM going to suggest that our collective weekend behavior and the high number of attacks on PC students are associated. Perhaps if we didn’t act in such ways, we wouldn’t have targets on our backs while doing simple things like buying a gallon of milk.

Recently, Student Affairs released a list of recommendations for PC students to follow in order to stay safe. The list includes:

  • Being aware of your surroundings and traveling in groups whenever possible.
  • Looking out for one another.
  • Avoiding pre-gaming.

Security constantly reminds students at the end of Security Advisories to “be vigilant, avoid walking alone, be alert, and notice appearances.” Notice how neither message says anything about being respectful to our neighbors. I think it is pretty apparent that we as a campus sometimes take for granted our opportunity and privilege to be a part of somebody else’s community for four years.

We can do better, Providence College. We have outlets in place that are trying to bridge the gap between our neighbors and us. Congress, BMSA, and BOP all have Outreach committees that focus on community service within the city of Providence. PSP classes emphasize service learning that takes place outside of the classroom, engaging students with some of the broader public issues in Providence. The Smith Hill Annex is a great new space for PC students and the surrounding Smith Hill residents to share. Finally, fellow writer Matt Smith led several community walks during Freshman Orientation, something that I feel is just as important for new students to attend as a sexual assault or safety and security workshop. In fact, community walks should be an orientation requirement. While these efforts do not go unnoticed, perhaps it is the case that we will not truly be able to “bridge the gap” that exists between local residents and ourselves until we adjust the way act on the weekends. We can do better, PC. Go out. Have a good time. Just be respectful.

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