By Connor Nolan ’19
Student Congress Publicity
This past Tuesday, Congress happily welcomed Providence College President Father Brian Shanley, O.P., to speak to its members. Fr. Shanley was invited for an extended Q&A session with Congress members about school policies, changes, or issues that students on campus had brought up to their representatives.
For example, there were multiple questions or suggestions regarding freedom of speech and censorship on campus. With some students unsure about when it is appropriate to speak up, speak out, or disagree with a teacher, members of the Congress wished to gain some insight into these issues. Fr. Shanley stated that it is tough to control whether or not a teacher is accepting to outside ideas or arguments within the classroom setting, but that the College itself is attempting to do a better job of giving both sides to an argument when it is presented on campus, whether it be through guest speakers or other events.
Similarly, a few different questions arose regarding the school’s Catholic roots, and how these roots can make it feel difficult to discuss or combat sensitive issues such as suicide and sexual health. Fr. Shanley sympathized with these views but admitted that, due to his role within both the church and the school, it was tough for him to comment on them.
Tiffany Gaffney, assistant dean of students, instead gave a brief answer as to how the school is working to be better in situations that can be detrimental to the student body, mainly speaking about the new programs on mental health awareness. She also alluded to a situation that was brought up about the showing of a controversial documentary on campus regarding suicide that was not allowed to be aired, and how the decision falls to certain members of the school faculty.
A few lighter questions were asked regarding the direction of the College’s future. Fr. Shanley spoke about the rising application and falling acceptance rate, citing them as signs that PC is making headway academically. After his discussion on attempting to grow the College’s applications across the nation, he fielded a question asking if the College would lose its Northeastern small school feel, but he believed that would always be a vital part of the College. He also spoke on the need to upgrade residential halls and the other buildings that have fallen behind on campus.
Following this, he fielded questions on the school’s diversity and new cultural center. Students suggested new ways of increasing diversity, such as recruiting more in cities and locally, as well as increasing Pell Grants or shifting more money towards need-based scholarships. Fr. Shanley promised to look into all questions and suggestions made by the members, and the 68th Student Congress would like to thank him for his time.
The Congress voted to repeal old rules within the constitution that required members of Congress to complete five service hours. The piece was introduced by Morgan Itz ’18 and Caroline Cook ’19 in order to clarify what exactly is asked of members of the Congress.The part being changed was considered superfluous, as it was really in place to ensure members attended mandatory events. A new piece was introduced yesterday, by the same presenters, that will instead require the members to attend mandatory events deemed fit by the executive board, including outside co-sponsored events. The new piece will be voted on next Tuesday.