Ms. Cleary’s Classroom

mhagandefaultchristmasMichael Hagan ’15

Ms. Cleary took a long due breath
As the children ran out to play.
At last the recess bell had rung
On that mid-December day.

But timid footsteps Ms. Cleary heard
A few yards behind her back.
“Ms. Cleary” spoke a nervous voice
The voice belonged to Jack.

Now you all have met a Jack, I’m sure.
Maybe you yourself were one.
No difference did the child see
In the meanings of mischief and fun

Just Tuesday Jack had poured his glue
On little Chelsea’s chair.
October’s prank of similar sort
Had cost poor Billy some hair.

Even Ms. Cleary was wary of Jack,
What tricks he might have up his sleeve.
She looked at him sternly as firmly she asked,
“Yes, Jack. What do you need?”

“That story you read about Santa,” said Jack,
As nervously nearer he drew,
“Ms. Cleary, I need you to tell me, please,
Is it… how can it be true?

I read, Ms. Cleary, I read a lot.
I read in a book last week;
There’s billions of people alive in the world,
Too many to count or meet.

How do they all get presents from Santa?
How does he not forget some?
And also, Ms. Cleary, my cousin Jake says…
Says believing in Santa is dumb.”

That mischievous smirk that Jack always wore
Was gone, and tears on their way.
She knew to put a hand on his shoulder,
But knew not what to say.

She took a seat on the classroom rug
Bidding him sit as well.
Struck, she was, for never’d she seen
In a child so much of herself.

Remembering well a winter’s day
Some twenty years before,
Ms. Cleary recalled what she was taught
On Ms. Webster’s classroom floor.

“You are right, Jack,” Ms. Cleary said,
“It seems like it just can’t be true.
But it is,” she began to explain to the boy
Not a lie, but the truth that she knew.

“There is a Santa Claus,” she said,
“I know that it’s hard to believe,
But I’ve met him myself, I’ll never forget,”
She said lifting her hand from his sleeve.

“I wasn’t much older than you are now,
When I began to doubt.
But I met him, Jack, and that’s when I learned
What Santa is all about.

Now I don’t mean the man in red at the mall
You’re a smart boy; he’s just an act
I mean the real Santa, I met the real thing,
And I promise that you will too, Jack.

One day, maybe soon, you’ll meet Santa Claus
He may not look like you’ve heard.
But Jack, he’s real, like you and me
And when you meet him you’ll learn.

We don’t have to rush, the time will come
For you to meet Santa Claus,
But if you could today, what would you say
To him?” She asked and paused.

“I’d say,” the child began to speak,
“I’d say thank-you. Thank you a bunch!
What can I do to repay Santa Claus
When I meet him? He’s given so much!”

“Exactly,” spoke Ms. Cleary, “Nothing,
And Jack, that’s just it.
Can’t thank him enough; you can’t pay him back.
You can only accept the gift.

But part of that gift is a lesson, Jack
To remember as long as you live.
Expecting nothing in return
He teaches us to give.

There’s another part you’ll just have to learn
More than the rest, it’s true.
The most wonderful part of meeting Santa
Is learning how much he loves you.

You’re more like Santa than you think,
One day you’ll make miracles too.”
The two walked to the door, Jack’s grin lit up.
Like a bolt to the playground he flew.

A very merry Christmas and blessed New Year to you and your families. “God bless us, everyone.”



mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

In my years as a student at Providence College, I have found particular joy in the first few campus Sunday Masses of the academic year. I am one of many Friars for whom worship at St. Dominic Chapel has been an integral part of life at PC, and this has everything to do with the centrality of the sacraments and prayer to our lives as Christians. I am not alone in believing that St. Dominic’s is the hearth at the center of this campus we call home.

But at the dawn of my last undergraduate year, an annual experience largely unique to campus communities like our own reminded me so clearly of what really happens when we gather for Mass. Sunday night I attended the first 10:30 Mass of the semester, and I found comforting and valuable lessons in an unlikely fact: there were hiccups in the liturgy. A new year of congregants and liturgical ministers put their best effort into giving due reverence to God. Much like any first attempt in a new environment, we experienced bumps along the way. There was great timidity among new congregants when it came to chanting back the Kyrie. There was uncertainty as to which Eucharistic ministers would administer to what aisle. Occasionally the tempo would unduly pick up as the congregation nervously sang hymns. The joy in these hiccups does not come from imagining Fr. Cuddy’s chagrin at minor bumps in the road. It rather comes from a very real sense of shared humanity stirred up by those moments when we ‘don’t quite get it right.’

We believe that the Mass is the intersection of the human and the divine. Human error, however innocent, may drive stricter liturgists up a wall; I tend to think that, in moderation, it plays an important role of reminding us who we are and whom we gather to worship. We are clumsy. We are easily distracted. We are timid. But God is perfect. God is attentive. God is fully and unreservedly present in the Eucharist. Over time, congregations work together to correct human error and celebrate Mass in a way most reverent and conducive to the work of God. At St. Dominic Chapel, we have the exciting and humbling blessing of undergoing this process each year. It keeps us humble and our worship vitalized.

Sunday night, we very human Friars encountered Christ in the breaking of bread. No liturgical hiccup negates this. Fr. Cuddy and the liturgy and worship team led a beautiful and authentic celebration of the Mass, but they would be the first to acknowledge that their work is good only insofar as it is moved by God. There is no such thing as a ‘bad Mass,’ because what makes it Mass is the work and presence of God in and through those who celebrate. In our high-risk world, there is great solace in the fact that the core of the Christian life is something we lack the power to screw up. Through participation in it, we stand only to grow deeper in contemplation of God and his mysteries.

Marylander in New England: To-Do List

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

All it took was a simple reminder email from Southwest Airlines to peak my eagerness to return to Providence College after a full year abroad. A wave of excitement struck me as I read, “Your trip to Providence is just a few days away.” Senior year is upon me. While it is bittersweet to leave my home in Maryland after such a whirlwind of a summer, I am raring to make the most of the time between now and that fateful third weekend in May. One of my goals in going to college far from home has been to experience those things both major and minute that give Rhode Island and greater New England an identity distinct from my own beloved Old Line State. I have begun to list out just several of the important tasks towards this end that need doing before my class’ rendezvous with destiny on May 17:

1. See a Ballgame at Fenway Park
I have missed too many opportunities to visit the cathedral of Boston, and this fall is the time to right this wrong.
Bonus Points: See my Orioles play the Red Sox at Fenway
Bonus Point Multiplier: See the O’s win at Fenway

2. Complete the Awful Awful Challenge at Newport Creamery
Drink three, get your fourth free… what could possibly go wrong?

3. Pay a visit to this Cape everyone is always talking about
It has been alleged that there is some kind of enormous island filled with beautiful beaches and picturesque villages somewhere off the southeastern shore of Massachusetts. I’ll believe it when I see it.

4. See a Film at the Avon Theater on Thayer Street
I might even dress like a hipster for the full experience.

5. Eat Lobster Fresh from the Waters of New England
I may have to sneak some Old Bay to the table…
Bonus Points: The guy who sold me the lobster caught it himself earlier that day

6. ‘Go into the woods to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I cannot learn what it has to teach, and not, when I come to die, discover that I have not lived’
… or at least camp out for a night or two.
Bonus Points: Spot a moose

7. Wear Matching “Four More Years of FDR” Pins with Dr. Grace on Election Day
I hope he wears his for midterms…

8. Max Out a Beer Club Card at The Abbey. Get a T-Shirt.
35-cent wing night may end up being a little pricier for me than in years past…

9. Win an Intramural Championship. Get a T-Shirt.
I’ve been training rigorously for inner-tube water polo for over a year now

10. Crash a Brown Party. Pretend to be an Ivy Leaguer.
I’m sure they will be enamored by tales of my research fellowship in Australia through which I conducted an in depth study of the effects of climate change on the marsupial population.

11. Run the Cox Half-Marathon
This goal may be a stretch, but it is something to aspire too. The necessary training regimen might not be compatible with items 2 and 8.

12. Complete a Senior Th… you know what, we’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it

13. Actually Eat Clams at Clam Jam
So help me God I will arrive on time this year.

14. Persuade a Current High School Senior to Consider PC
Because this experience has been too wonderful not to share
All the Bonus Points: Aforementioned high school senior enrolls

Here’s to the year ahead. I am so thankful for the community we share it in.

This Is Why We Write.

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

When people ask me what my courses involve in Oxford, I swiftly respond, “lots of writing.” This has been a writing intensive year for me. My academic program revolves around the preparation and presentation of essays. It is a rigorous though not overwhelming pace of writing. With a little bit of discipline, one can navigate the academic term so as to only endure the occasional all-nighter or intellectual train wreck. One can write in comfort and security. Writing becomes a manageable chore.

There is certainly merit in steady, productive writing habits; they are essential to tasks academic and otherwise. Still, when writing becomes a chore (however enriching), one can lose sense of the vitalizing and connective power of the written word. When we write merely to communicate our more superficial ideas, we can lose touch with the passions and values that underpin them. Such is the authorial malaise I found myself in until recently.

Sometimes it takes another’s words to remind me what my own stand on.

Last month, my friend and fellow Friarside writer Abby Hevert was confronted by every study-abroad student’s worst nightmare. She received a call while traveling in Germany; her grandfather was dying. She was powerless to make it home to say goodbye in time, but she embraced this helplessness with beautiful grace. When she finally made it home, she did what only felt natural: she wrote.

This is why we write. We verbalize what we believe must be shared. Because Abby shared her story, hundreds of readers (myself included) have gained a small share of that highly communicative grace. We write to share our stories. We write to share our beliefs and values. We write to lend a hand. We write to open dialogue. We write about tricky subjects that some try to brush under the rug. We write to sort through our frustrations. We write about what frightens us. We write about what inspires us as well as what disheartens. We write about our niche interests. We write about matters much bigger than ourselves.

We do not claim always to write beautifully, and sometimes we can write recklessly. It was only recently that a friend drew my attention to something cruel and untrue that I wrote in an angry moment last spring. Writing makes us vulnerable to all kinds of criticism, and sometimes criticism is precisely the bucket of cold water we need.

Through Friarside Chats, we write about those matters we care most about. We write for a community we love. Friarside writers have all shared in a healthy, enriching, and constructive experience. It is an experience well worth sharing. This is why we write. Please, write with us.

Weathering the Storm of Realignment

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

We’re only a matter of hours away from the Friars’ first appearance in the Big East title game in twenty years. An automatic bid to NCAA tournament is on the line. The original Big East’s architect’s program seeks to upset the new Big East’s newest team to beat. The championship game is the culmination of a Big East season ripe with what we love most about college basketball. It is a high-energy game in which momentum is key and nothing can be taken for granted. It is the ultimate spectator sport in which the atmosphere of an arena both lends and steals momentum. Schools of every size can build, have built, and will build successful programs. A school’s size and resources matter far less than the commitment and ability of its athletes and coaches. Cinderella stories happen in college basketball, and no powerhouse program can purchase invulnerability.

Conference realignment based on football interests have threatened Providence College and schools like ours in recent years. Concerned by reforms in the NCAA football postseason and fixated on the almighty dollar, larger institutions able to support football programs suddenly decided that there was no room in the college athletics landscape for smaller institutions that could not. Football interests drove a wedge into Dave Gavitt’s basketball focused Big East; it was clear that the Big East was no conference to be in for teams hopeful for a berth in an impending playoff system.

College football’s ability to trump all other athletic interests is simply a reality. One can feel nostalgic for simpler days when conference titles and high profile bowl games were enough for everybody but Notre Dame (and the Fighting Irish could be appeased with an AP or Coaches’ trophy), but there is no going back nor real sense in complaining.

But under threat of being left out in the cold by realignment, we found out who our friends really are. In 1979 when the Big East was founded, intercollegiate friendship was not dictated by likeness in size, budget, or market. In the age of football hegemony, these have become many D1 schools’ only grounds for cooperation. But Providence College and the rest of the Catholic seven (plus honorary Catholic college, Butler University) have weathered the storm. It is a shame that a climate has developed in which the mid-sized private and large public schools that made up the old Big East cannot coexist in a conference, but interscholastic solidarity between those of us that UConn, Pitt, Syracuse, and the like decided they couldn’t be bothered with has brought an exciting new beginning out of what could have easily spiraled into catastrophe.

For tonight (and hopefully for the coming weeks), the Big East is all about basketball. But I am hopeful that the new Big East will offer opportunities for great athletic rivalry coupled with constructive interscholastic cohesion. We are a misfit conference out to prove the worth of mid-sized and small schools on the court, on the fields, and on our campuses. Competitive spirit between athletic rivals can be a powerful motivator and bond when harnessed properly. Following the example of the late Dave Gavitt, Providence College can be a leader in this new conference athletically and otherwise. Competitive rivalries between athletic programs and fruitful relationships conducive for mutual enrichment and collaboration between other campus leaders stand to be developed between these schools that share so much in mission and seek most faithfully to preserve the tradition of Big East basketball unadulterated by destructive football-centric interests. This is one more thing to celebrate as we cheer on the Friars in tonight’s Big East championship game. The novelty of this new conference is solidarity between schools and with tradition. Go Friars!

An ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “Requiem for the Big East,” will air Sunday, March 16 at 9 PM. Read a Friar fan’s perspective on the documentary here.

Happy New Year!

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

Several months ago, Friarside Chats celebrated the first anniversary of its launch in October of 2012. Today, on behalf of our whole team, I am pleased to bid you a very happy New Year! The New Year’s holiday provides us with an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and what lies ahead as we press on in our second year as a media presence at Providence College

The early days of 2013 were still uncertain ones for our blog. We were four writers who knew this community had much more to discuss than what was being addressed in administratively sanctioned outlets. In the twilight of 2012, we dove into the election in which many of us students would cast our first ballots. We shed light on systematic problems in the way PC interacts with the Smith Hill community. We discussed the ethos of Providence College’s institutional advancement and philanthropic appeals. Our readership exceeded our earliest expectations. There was buzz, but would it last?

We hit the kinds of obstacles that every student group encounters. We struggled to publish consistently in the face of papers, projects, and exams. We hit others unique to our kind of organization. We had no funding, no advertising budget, nor any of the advantages that come with administrative sanction. In a recent conversation with another Friarside writer, I remembered just how uncertain the viability of our blog once was. But that has changed.

Today I would like to recognize the people who have been most integral to the success and vitality of Friarside Chats: my fellow writers. When this blog was no more than a brainchild in 2012, I envisioned a site which would bring together some of our campus’ most energetic and dedicated activists to write about the matters that inspire their leadership. Our team of regular contributors and many guest writers together have been no less than this dream come true. It is their energy, willingness to learn, and abiding will to be constructive members of the campus community they love that has grown this simple vision into a steadfast media fixture at Providence College.

One thing wonderful about our team is that we are not perfect, and we do not pretend to be. We do not write as academics or, hell, even journalists. We write honestly, we prioritize writing accessibly, and we write about what’s important to us. From the beginning we have had a policy of not assigning pieces to write. Every post you read is the product of its author’s own initiative. Authenticity is our policy, and each new post impresses me anew as our team lives up to it.

My role with Friarside Chats has scaled back since I went abroad this fall. The blog has mostly been administered by other writers stateside. But my absence has not detracted from the blog. On the contrary, this ongoing project only grows stronger. This is a testament to the quality of our team and the importance of this site. Thank you, Providence College for the privilege of your readership. Here’s to the Chats to be had and achievements to be made in 2014. Happy New Year to all!

Yes, Providence, There is a Santa Claus

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

It’s been 116 years since the now defunct New York Sun published its immortal response to eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter to the editor in which she wrote:

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. 
”Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. 
”Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ 
”Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”

In his unsigned piece published on behalf of The Sun’s editorial board, Francis Church wrote:

“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little…

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy”

There is a Santa Claus, Providence College. This is something that I believe at the age of twenty more than I ever believed as a child. I learn more about him every year, and I pray that you would do the same.

I make fewer assumptions about Santa than I used to. I do not presume to know how he can be so generous, though one day I hope to. That he can be present in homes the world over in a single night remains in my mind a miracle, though I have ceased to try to explain just how he achieves it. That he has invested so much time, energy, and attention into creating some of the most special memories of my childhood despite my utter inability to reciprocate is something that has come to mean so much more to me now that I know just a little bit more about him.

In learning more about Santa, I have seen the ways in which he has been so formed by his childhood experiences. Santa Claus is a witness to his heritage; he reflects those best traits of those who came before him.

Santa is someone whose gracious giving begets gracious receiving. He renders no child beholden to him. Not even the most imaginative among boys and girls can think up a way to one-up or get even with Santa Claus. They can hardly imagine a place to start. No one can pay Santa back; we can only pay forward.

And thus in Santa I see a reflection of one whom I can only be certain of through faith. You see I’ve come to understand a little bit about the timing of Santa’s annual routine. Santa didn’t choose Christmas, but Christmas chose him. And “chose” may not even be the right word; Christmas moved him. I believe that Santa sees in Christmas a gift for which none of us can reciprocate. He knows that Love has given the fullness of itself to us as a perfect gift, and that no gift of human design can measure up to this. Love’s fullness is a gift given with full knowledge that no recipient can give an equal or greater gift in return. Instead, it is a gift that we are invited and moved to accept and be joined to.

And while I can’t say with certainty that he always realizes the full extent of what he is doing, I believe that Santa is preparing children to accept that gift that is the very essence of Christmas. He has certainly prepared me.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve come to learn about Santa is just how much he has in common with you and me. The magic of Santa Claus, which so enraptured us as children, is something that age brings us to a point of decision about. As children, how could we not believe? The evidence was under our trees and in our stockings. The explanation surrounded us. With childhood goes the sufficiency of such evidence in accounting for literal fact. But the truth of Santa Claus, like some of life’s other greatest truths, is not contingent on literal fact. Those who talk about Santa in terms of being “real” or “not real” miss the point. Fact is not the question; truth is. Santa Claus is true; this manifests in very real joy on gleeful Christmas mornings and in the fact of his abiding role in the lives of children and their parents through generations.

“You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart… Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.”

Yes, PC, there is a Santa Claus. With each Christmas may we see more of him in ourselves and eachother and prepare to one day introduce him to a new generation.

“Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

I wish each of you a very merry Christmas, and I warmly look forward to returning to Providence College in the New Year. God bless us, everyone.

“Shmacked?” “Gone?” PC’s Social Brand: Not For Sale.

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

On September 12, students from colleges and universities across Rhode Island descended upon Roxy nightclub on Washington Street in downtown Providence to participate in the event that provided the lion’s share of footage for this video. The event and video, produced by social media upstart I’m Shmacked, featured primarily URI students. These Rhody Rams so generously volunteered their likenesses, livers, and such inspired quotations as “I’m fucked up as shit right now” and “Welcome to the Ocean State, bitch” in order that the good folks at I’m Shmacked could advance their brand and grow their profits.

The strange phenomenon that is I’m Shmacked leads one to wonder what is the greater suppressor of inhibition: alcohol or the camera? Something changes when the camera rolls. Parties become performances. Drinks more often end up poured over another’s head or chest than into the pourer’s mouth. People get louder; they address the camera instead of their peers. These parties don’t intensify organically; they are productions. Participants are putting on their best renditions of what has been first sold to them as the ideal form of a college party.

We Providence College students know a thing or two about partying. And yes, this has always been a revenue source for local package stores and bars. Students buy drinks, pay cover, and order buffalo chicken pizzas. There is a simple exchange of money for goods and services here. But what about business models like I’m Shmacked that capitalize on campus culture to build a profitable brand around exaggerated portrayals of college parties? How do students benefit from this exchange? How did the girl who passed out on Washington Street on September 12 benefit or stand to benefit? The same question applies to the University of Delaware Rugby Team, whose conduct during the Newark, Delaware stop in the I’m Shmacked tour led to the team’s five-year suspension four days earlier. These students made mistakes and suffered; I’m Shmacked indifferently reaped footage and profit. Friars know better than to allow themselves to be exploited like this, right?

In the past couple of days, a music video featuring recognizable and underage Providence College students filmed at a house on Pinehurst Avenue has been circulating via web link around the PC community. The video was picked up by popular website before being prudently locked from public view on YouTube. All aesthetic assessments of the song “Gone” aside, the video was made up of footage similar to material I’m Shmacked collects in order to advance its brand: students putting on a performance for a camera. The video was anything but original, participants acted against their better judgment, and I’m pleased for the sake of the students portrayed that it is, at least for the time being, “Gone” from the public eye.

I do not criticize the lyrical or performance ability of the song’s artist, but the fact of the matter is that the material of the video was tasteless. The video’s subjects were trying to conform to an abstraction. In the rush to live-up to this image of what pop-culture thinks our parties ought to be like, boundaries were crossed, inhibitions were lost, and clothes came off. But does this image really match PC? How does this video speak to the sense of camaraderie shared between partygoers at our small college with big school energy? It fails even to attempt to represent the sense of comfort and security amidst madness shared by revelers at what really are the best of PC parties. And what about the less glamorous though perhaps more enriching side of party culture? Sunday morning struggle-brunch in Ray, laughing about and learning from weekend antics, and helping out a friend who might not be having the best of nights are all parts of the PC social experience. But this video simply relies on the all too common glorification of male libido and objectifying portrayal of women in order to conform to somebody else’s brand. It captures none of the best parts of party culture at Providence College. It tests the degree of easiness with which sex and fear of missing out sell. PC students participating in the video misrepresent themselves and their school. The true PC social brand far exceeds what this video seeks to conform it to in order to break into a lucrative market. Let’s not sell out on that brand. If they were aware they were being filmed, the subjects of this video were far too eager to allow our campus culture to be misrepresented and exploited.

I’m glad the video is “Gone,” but it’s memory should remain as a lesson. Our social scene and campus culture is something that has been built up through decades. The fun-loving reputation of Providence College, try as some administrators may to suppress it, is rooted in friendship and campus camaraderie. Most other colleges and universities cannot make such a claim. This is a tradition we should be both proud and defensive of. We should not allow anything, be it I’m Shmacked or any other pop-culture influence, to undermine us.

Be safe, be yourself, and party on.

One Year Young: A Friarside Milestone

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

One year ago today, Friarside Chats launched. A small group of new friends and I channeled our mutual frustration with the actions of existing campus media into momentum towards the realization of a mutual vision. We wanted to create a new forum for perspectives otherwise pushed to the fringe by the administration and administratively ordained press highly defensive of its status-quo.

From this altruistic yet defiant spirit, Friarside Chats was born October 6, 2012. With just three writers at launch (our team quickly grew to four), we used Facebook and word of mouth to generate buzz over this experiment in campus media. We wrote about on and off campus issues. We challenged administrative practices the Cowl felt it couldn’t. We wrote not as journalists but as Friars and friends committed to our school and sharing our honest convictions. We explored matters that interested us, though our ever-increasing readership bore witness to the fact that we were not unique in our interests.

Friarside Chats has been criticized essentially for rocking the boat. But I am proud of our body of work and of the dialogue and reform it has played a role in precipitating. Each writer writes freely and independently. Feedback is offered, but no writer is ever forced to alter his or her writing. We don’t always agree on matters; such was never our goal. But it is a wonderful experience to be part of a team of writers with mutually abundant respect for each other. I am confident that each member of our present team of six shares this sentiment.

This project is one year young. To the excitement of many and the chagrin of others, we’re not going anywhere. Internally, much has changed. My own role as blog administrator has been scaled back this semester as I am studying abroad for the entirety of my junior year. Two of our writers have graduated. One Friarside alumna has gone on to become a Capitol Hill staffer in Washington, DC. Another one of our writers is now vice-president of Student Congress.

We observe this milestone by reflecting on our beginnings and refocusing on our unchanged mission. Personally I feel as though we get carried away when we see ourselves as such great agents of change on this campus. The pen is mighty; words have weight. But what is mightier still is this student body when informed by diverse perspectives on relevant issues. We chat, and our Chats become a part of that diversity.

Each campus media outlet offers something unique, and Friarside is unique in offering student commentary independent from administrative review or regulation. This does not make our work better or more vital than other campus media; it simply makes it different. We believe that this matters, and we thank you for believing too.

Thank you for your readership in this first year of Friarside Chats, and here’s to the many great years ahead!

The Hubris of Harkins Hall

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

Somebody must have felt pretty smug about Saturday’s announcement of the decision to cancel Dr. John Corvino’s guest lecture scheduled for Thursday night. An email was sent exclusively to faculty and staff at a time when professors were away from the office and students were presumably too busy eating, drinking, and being merry to care. It led with an assurance of respect for academic freedom and quoted bishops. “By God,” administrators must have thought, “this is golden!”

Was it hubris or crass indifference that blinded senior Providence College administrators to the offensiveness and inappropriateness of both the decision itself and the subsequent announcement? Saturday evening: school’s out, professors are home, beer’s cold, and the school newspaper doesn’t come out until Thursday. Harkins Hall crossed its fingers and hoped the story would simply fade away. But Roman Catholic institutions above all others should know that a public relations strategy of brushing news under the rug ultimately exacerbates the situation.

The highest ranking academic official at Providence College publicly expressed distrust in his own faculty member and colleague’s ability to hold her own in academic discourse. Professor Dana Dillon is an esteemed and gifted theologian. She writes and speaks accessibly and insightfully. Her participation would have enriched Thursday’s event, but instead she has patronizingly been made part of an excuse for cancellation. No amount of applause “for her willingness to present on such a complex and controversial topic” neutralizes the message of the decision just as no amount of written assurance of respect for academic freedom can rectify its violation. Dr. Lena writes one thing and does another.

But unless you honestly believe that this was a one-man decision made over coffee and Saturday morning’s Projo, Dr. Lena is not the problem. However circumstantial, there is much evidence indicating Lena did not act unilaterally; this was a bigger and more calculated decision than his words suggest. Even if it was solely his decision, it is symptomatic of a mindset that seems to permeate so much of Harkins Hall. Saying and writing terms like “academic freedom,” “human flourishing,” and “Veritas” over and over again will not bring them to fruition. Quoting the bishops’ conference out of context to suppress a doctrinally non-Catholic viewpoint neither advances the intellectual tradition of nor defends the Faith.

The negative PR from this incident is regrettable. I have heard people say how it hurts our reputation as a school. Some will condemn campus media outlets for generating even more buzz over a story that the New York Times just made national news. But is it right for a school to have a reputation its conduct does not match? We cannot build a reputation around respect for academic freedom if we do not exercise that respect. Any step forward will simply fold into several steps back so long as the administration’s deeds are misaligned from its words. Providence College can fix this, but such will require the institution to act in accordance with it’s own mission:

 “Providence College honors academic freedom, promotes critical thinking and engaged learning, and encourages a pedagogy of disputed questions.”

-from The Mission of Providence College, 2013