by Sabrina Guilbeault ’18
Last Friday, February 24, the Office of Admissions at Providence College issued a statement on their Facebook page saying, “There will be no consequences in the admission process for any high school students who receive disciplinary action for participating in peaceful and constructive protests in support of the causes they hold dear to them.”
“When I saw PC’s announcement this weekend, I was incredibly happy and proud to be a Friar,” said Christian Balasco ’18, a member of Student Congress. “In the past PC has often remained quiet for too long on important issues, so I was pleased to see that they were quick to lead the charge on this, letting students around this country know that PC will never punish them for doing what is right and fighting for what they believe to be true.”
This declaration came amidst a multitude of statements made by colleges across the country in regards to the demonstrations and protests organized by high school students over gun control after the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The shooting, which left 17 students and staff members dead, and replaced the 1999 Columbine shooting as the deadliest high school shooting in American history, caused students to call for action all over the country.
An article by Time magazine laid out the student demonstrations that will occur on the national level. For example, on March 14, the Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER group is calling for a national school walkout at 10 a.m. in every time zone, where allies will “walk out” for 17 minutes, one for every life lost at the Parkland shooting. Furthermore, on March 24, the March For Our Lives will occur in Washington, D.C. to call for school safety and gun control.
Still, some school districts have issued warnings that students who participate in these demonstrations will face suspension. An article from CNN explained that Needville Independent School District in Texas issued a warning that students who participate in a walkout or political protest will be suspended for three days. Similarly, the superintendent of a school district in Waukesha, Wisconsin, sent a letter to parents that said, “Participation in a walkout is disruptive and against school regulations, and will subject students to disciplinary measures.”
In reaction to these responses, colleges and universities, including but not limited to Boston University, DePaul University, Trinity College, Catholic University, Tulane University, Massachusetts Intitute of Technology, and PC, issued their own statements assuring students any punishments related to walkouts will not affect their admission status.
“Seeing PC go out of its way to join over 150 other institutions nationwide is a big deal,” said Kohl Peasley ’19, a member of BMSA and a resident assistant. “This is a large step in the right direction and I’m proud that PC was able to publicly identify itself as a school that appreciates change.” He went onto explain how he hopes this statement is more than just a publicity stunt because other colleges have already issued statements, and that PC really wants to be part of this growth.
“As an institution founded for the pursuit of truth, with its Latin equivalent, veritas, as our motto, we applaud and support the actions of all our future students fighting for what they believe to be true and look forward to their voices joining our campus soon,” the PC Office of Admissions said. The statement also explained that PC students have often used their voice to make a better campus, and in that spirit they issued their statement.
“I think the statement from the Office of Admissions shows the impact that current and past students have made on the campus community,” said alumnus Patrick Rogers ’17, who explained that in his time at PC, he has seen students fight for justice and felt their efforts were not always accepted or understood by the community at-large.
“With the explicit statement that prospective students will not be penalized in their application, I think this is a statement that shows we value students who want to be part of the PC community not just to better themselves during their time here, but that the institution places value on those who want to better our community and are willing to fight for what is right,” Rogers said.
“Students’ pursuits of truth have driven much of the important and timely change I’ve seen at the College, particularly in regards to the cultivation of a more diverse and inclusive community, and without those fearless student’s fighting for their truths, I doubt that change would have come,” said Balasco. He explained that by making this statement, PC proclaimed loud and clear that it is never the wrong time to peacefully fight for what you believe is right.
“This is important, and shows truly shows that PC really understands the importance and power of the student’s voice,” he said.