by Catherine Brewer ’20
In the wake of the “Trumpkin” incident, Providence College student executives are looking forward to bringing a new sense of unity to campus. “I am always impressed when our student leaders can get together having differences of opinion and are able to discuss and reach a final truth,” remarked Dean Steven Sears, associate vice president of student affairs. Both executive boards of BMSA and PC Republicans met together last Friday to enhance communication between the two clubs following the incident.
The PC community was made aware of the Trumpkin incident at 4:33 p.m. on Nov. 2 in an email from Fr. Brian Shanley O.P. According to Fr. Shanley, a “Trumpkin” was put on display in the office of one of the PC student organizations. Prior to the email, word of the display had been circulating by means of social media, and an image tweeted by University of Massachusetts at Amherst student journalist Michael J. Hout at 9 a.m. on Nov. 2 gained attention from major news outlets, notably The Daily Wire, The Providence Journal, and The Washington Times. Hout’s tweet was critical for the wide public exposure of the details of the incident: the image revealed a pumpkin pierced with scissors seated beneath a chalkboard that read, “Stab, stab, stab. Trumpkin 2017: If you ever feel angry or stressed, feel free to stab Trumpkin!” Additionally, Hout noted in the caption that the display was located in the office of PC’s Board of Multicultural Student Affairs, and that he received the information via an anonymous source.
In the Providence Journal’s Nov. 2 coverage of the incident, PC’s Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Steven Maurano reported that “Trumpkin” was on display “for a brief period of time.” He elaborated, “‘I’m not sure exactly how long, but it was no longer than a day or so. … The college administration learned of the display late in the evening of Oct. 24. By the time we accessed the office at 9 am the following morning, it had been removed.’”
At 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, the PC Republicans held their weekly meeting. The members of their Sakai email list were notified, and it was indicated that the Trumpkin incident would be discussed. President Michael R. Bartels ’18 described how the organization responded to “Trumpkin,” stating, “We had first heard about it from a reporter who called me asking if I felt safe on a campus where that display existed, and rumors were circulating around, some exaggerated, some not.”
Following an incident in which some students felt that they needed to leave the meeting, the executive boards of BMSA and PC Republicans met privately to discuss ways to move forward and facilitate constructive dialogues.
Both executive boards believe it is time for the PC community to come together, to heal, and plan for the future. Bartels suggests that students ask themselves about what has brought them to campus. “This might seem naïve and simple, but my advice for students in both our clubs is that we should do something as simple as ask someone from across the aisle to grab lunch together, sit down and ask how their lives are going. Try to see their lives as people, and not just as political actors,” he stated. The executive board of BMSA declined to officially comment for this article, but expressed publically the goal to move forward from the event. The “Trumpkin” incident is still under investigation and will be processed through the Office of Community Standards.
“Do your part to break the rigid social segregation that creates echo chambers and generates the hatred that drives us to conflict and confrontation over conversation and comradery,” Bartels said. “We can talk endlessly about top-down programs and seminars but the impetus is on us. Change starts at the dinner table, or, in our case, the Ray table.”
“At times they may not agree with each other, but a thorough dialogue leads to better understanding,” said Dean Sears. “I believe the student leaders took this situation very seriously and have agreed to work together more closely moving forward.”