Where do I start? Upon hearing about the cancellation of Dr. Corvino’s lecture I wasn’t mad; I was livid. I don’t want to beat the reasons why into the ground (you can watch my 7 and a half minute tangent on the subject here: here). However, I feel obligated to mention two that have not been raised by many others.
The school’s policy of “equal and opposing points of views” for topics that are controversial to Catholic doctrine is BS to say the least. Seriously though, this policy isn’t written anywhere, and isn’t consistently enforced. For example, this Monday James Stacey Taylor, an associate professor of Philosophy at The College of New Jersey, is scheduled to give a lecture on Monday about capitalism and Catholicism. However, Rerum Novarum condemns classical free market economics. So, being that Catholic doctrine and the natural law according to St. Thomas Aquinas emphasize free and fair play in trading, and being that capitalism is anything but that, I expect one of two things to happen before tomorrow:
a) Providence College demands the opposing point of view to also be represented at the event tomorrow.
b) Provost Lena cancels the event, being that according to Ex corde ecclesiae, “the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
In case you couldn’t decipher my attempt at being facetious, I do not actually want tomorrow’s event to be cancelled/adjusted in any way. I’m simply trying to make a point; this non-existent policy isn’t even being applied consistently. Thus, it goes to show you that the topic of the original lecture itself, gay marriage, was the main reason behind the cancellation. As a result, our LGBT community was isolated, and has every right to feel like they do not belong. That is the message our administration has sent to them.
Secondly, Public Administration has taught me that in any hierarchal structure, whether it is the federal bureaucracy or here at Providence College, those in power do not delegate to others what are most important to them. Where do we as PC students see the Fr. Shanley? We see him at our men’s basketball games, and on TV when we decided to leave the Big East. We see him finding rich donors to construct beautiful new buildings on campus. Sports and money are important to Fr. Shanley, and rightfully so. But I believe the needs of the students are also important. So let me ask you, Father Shanley: Where were you at Thursday’s event where almost 500 people were in attendance? Why did Provost Lena send the email? Why have you not sent a school wide email telling us what you think about the matter? Where were you last year at the Hoodie Rally for Social Justice after problems with racial profiling on campus gained national attention? Father Shanley has made it extremely clear that the problems that arise here on campus are not as important as making Providence College a basketball and hockey powerhouse with some nice looking buildings to go along with it. Clearly, this has some apparent and serious consequences.
If I’ve learned one thing this first month of the school year, it’s that I am a “maximizer.” What does that mean? Well at least in terms of Public Administration, I over-think and analyze every decision in my life before coming to a conclusion. I rarely go with that gut instinct. Instead, before deciding to do ANYTHING, I go through my options over and over again to decide which action will be the most beneficial (I think you business people call this “cost-benefit” analysis). I do this with literally everything: what to wear and where to go, while writing and speaking, and even when deciding what to do in the gym for the day. What’s worse is that even after making a decision, I think to myself “What if I had chosen the other option.” Surely there are pros and cons to this life approach, but the thing that stuck out to me the most when learning about “maximizers” is that they almost never take risks. Those closest to me would tell you exactly this. They’d tell you that I need to loosen up, that I’m too up tight at times, and that I am always safe with my decision-making. So this past week, I finally decided to take a risk.
My Community Organizing class decided at 4 PM on Monday that something was inherently wrong with the administration’s handling of the situation. Students had no idea what was going on; in fact, many had no clue that Dr. Corvino was coming in the first place. We planned the counter-event that took place on Thursday, and began informing the students via social media what had transpired. Friarside acted as a news outlet on campus, and we did everything we could to post and release the latest updates. By 9 PM, the New York Times had released an article about the cancellation of the speaker, and we were the talk of the world.
This past week I struggled wearing more than one hat. As a community organizer who felt passionately that the school had screwed up, I wanted to hold those responsible accountable. At the same time, as the Vice President of Student Congress, I was expected to act rationally and not impulsively. It seemed like somebody was scrutinizing everything I said or did. At times I was doing too much; at other times I was not doing enough. People cautioned me not to take action, telling me that while the administration may be in the wrong, we as a student body would need their help for future battles. Others cautioned me that my actions would follow me forever, and that I would eventually have to answer to a future employer about disobeying authority figures. My own mother even advised against me “stirring the pot,” and was nervous about my scholarship being taken away. In my opinion, too many people were thinking individualistically about the issue at hand. This wasn’t about you or me; this was about us as a campus. It wasn’t any one individual’s decision to “stir the pot,” it was a collective movement that had to occur. So anybody who doubted me this week, you lit my fire. So thank you for that.
And in terms of the event itself, it was amazing. I have to say; I never thought this campus could do something like this. We have a reputation for being a divisive school, full of polarizing questions. But for this, we came together and united under a common cause. Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, and hell, even The Cowl and Friarside collaborated for this one. Between 400-450 people attended, with another 115 or so watching via live stream. Students, teachers, and staff all came together and took part in the academic discussion that was taken away from us. We listened to student testimonials, broke up into small groups, and provided an outlet for individuals to share their stories in a larger open forum. More, the feedback myself and other students who organized the event have received has been tremendously positive. I’ve received emails and FaceBook messages from people I don’t know, thanking me for putting on the event. I’d just like to say this: Don’t thank me for the work you all have done yourselves. I did not make this event happen. My class didn’t make this event happen. The hundreds of you who made an appearance and showed that the issues of marriage equality and academic freedom are important to you made this happen. Thanks for proving me wrong, PC; I really needed you to do so.