Love Is Love: PC Must Promote Safe Spaces

by The Cowl Editor on March 15, 2018


Kristine Goodwin speaks to students
Nicholas Crenshaw ’20/TheCowl

by Katherine Torok ’20

A recent bulletin board found in St. Joseph Hall proved that the Providence College community still struggles to fully accept some students’ identities—even though it is 2018.

The bulletin board was decorated with the phrase, “Marriage: The Way God Intended It. One Man. One Woman,” a quote from Pope Francis which states, “We just reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and mother,” and a variety of pictures emphasizing the belief that marriage should exclusively be between a man and a woman.

While PC was founded on Catholic and Dominican beliefs which support the ideas expressed in the bulletin board, these ideas should not be forced on students, especially in a residence hall, which should be one of the safest places on campus. This is also not PC’s first time receiving attention for homophobic sentiments. In 2011, The Princeton Review—an organization that collects their statistics from student feedback and surveys—gave PC a spot on “The Least-LGBT Friendly Colleges.” In the seven years since that ranking, PC has remained off the list, but the College still has a lot of growing up to do.

Small, colorful “Safe Space” stickers on some professors’ office doors are not how the College will successfully tackle this issue. Students have the right to feel safe on this campus, especially in the residence halls in which they live.

A dorm is a student’s “home away from home” where he or she should feel comfortable and respected by all other residents and resident assistants, not threatened, attacked, or disrespected. If the only true safe spaces on campus are located in academic buildings and various offices, PC gives the impression that they do not put the safety, respect, nor comfort of all students first. This simply must change.

The year is 2018, and people need to start having open and respectful conversations. SHEPARD (Stopping Homophobia, Eliminating Prejudice and Restoring Dignity) collectively commented on the recent bulletin board put up in St. Joseph Hall.

They stated, “This incident is representative of homophobic behavior on this campus. Sweeping it under the rug or turning a blind eye to it is directly detrimental to PC’s LGBTQ+ community. We have to have face the reality that individuals with queer identities do exist on this campus and they deserve equal amounts of respect as any other student. PC’s LGBTQ+ community resides in discomfort because of hostile attitudes that directly influence interactions between those who choose to live openly about their identities and those who adhere to conservative ideologies. There is no justification for differential treatment on any basis or for regarding a person as a second-class citizen because of their identity. SHEPARD will continue to fight through to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community and its allies are adequately represented and heard on this campus.”

On Monday, March 12, 2018, the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs (BMSA), Kristine Goodwin, vice president of student affairs, and several other PC staff members addressed the bulletin board issue at the weekly BMSA board meeting in Moore Hall.

Goodwin clarified some details regarding the situation. She explained that she could neither approve nor deny the bulletin board since there is no clear, specific policy regarding what kind of content is allowed to be posted on them,    and because the message of the board lines up with the church’s beliefs. She then let the student audience take control of the conversation.

However, this quickly became less of a conversation and more of a way for students to express their anger, frustration, and concerns towards the various social issues on campus. Throughout the meeting, Goodwin made her point very clear: How do we—as a community—tackle these issues?

“Where do we need to get to, I guess is my question?” Goodwin questioned. She went on to state, “My hope is that [at] some point this year, with the help of my friends from SHEPARD—because we spent some time together talking about what it’s like to be an LGBTQ+ student, a transgender student, a non-identifying student on this particular campus—because I want to understand and I want to be an ally to you in that space, and to help you love and be loved at Providence College.”

In the second pillar of the Friar Four, a set of foundational principles that PC promotes through various Student Affairs programs, the final “Learning Outcome” states, “Students will create and maintain inclusive communities that respect the essential dignity of every individual.”

However, this bulletin board proved that these intended “Learning Outcomes” are not being fulfilled whatsoever. This bulletin board is simply an expression of exclusivity.

Daniel/Hieu Nguyen ’20, a resident of St. Joseph Hall, expanded on this idea, stating, “I have always considered Providence College as my second home because of the loving and supportive community. I am from Vietnam, so I don’t get to go back home as frequently as most of the students here and it is hard, but the friends that I made here have become my family and they offer me the same love and support that my real family would. Because of that, I feel really disappointed, hurt, and angry to see that such a controversial message was put up on the bulletin board on the floor that I live in. The bulletin board promotes the exclusion of a whole community and it is inflicting pain and fear among so many people…I really hope the school administrators address the problem and give us a solution as soon as possible.”

During the BMSA meeting, Goodwin made it very clear the PC does not have a policy regarding what subjects RAs can and cannot use for their bulletin boards. While it seems extreme for Residence Life to be policing and preapproving what resident assistants put on their bulletin boards, it is clear that this incident was also an abuse of power.

Gloriana Navarro Delgado ’18, head resident assistant of McVinney Hall, touched on this idea during the BMSA meeting and further expanded her thoughts on this issue. She explained, “As RAs we have the role of encouraging our students to become the best version of themselves, as well as to host a community where everyone feels safe, included, and respected.”

While PC is a Catholic institution and thus supports the beliefs promoted by the St. Joseph’s bulletin board, the bulletin board directly targets a community that is present on campus—no matter how small they may appear to be. They are Providence College students; therefore, their safety is just as important as every other student’s on this campus.

Amber Silva ’18, head resident assistant of West Apartments, commented on the intended meaning of the bulletin boards: “They can really be anything. They always strongly encourage it to be something uplifting, or holiday-related. It’s either student promotion or self well-being for students. It’s really promoting community.”

Students and administrative staff need to seriously start talking about the discrimination that occurs on this campus and figure out ways to tackle this consistent issue. A plan of action needs to be created and publically promoted. Issues and plans of actions directly concerning the student body cannot be kept under wraps anymore. If the administration wants to solve issues with the student body, they must begin to seriously listen to what students have to say.

“My hope is that we—during this year—are going to have conversations about this where people can say how they feel and what they think about this matter,” stated Goodwin, “And part of that is going to start with the solidarity march.”

SHEPARD’s solidarity march against transphobia and homophobia is set for Wednesday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m. in front of Moore Hall.

This is allegedly the event that will catapult the PC campus into a new chapter filled with open conversation and respect; yet who knows if change will actually come?

One thing is for sure: students are rightfully breaking the silence and demanding respect on a campus that many consider their second home.

So, at this moment, where are your safe spaces, PC?

6 thoughts on “Love Is Love: PC Must Promote Safe Spaces

  1. I thought part of this bulletin board was in response to a bulletin board in another dorm. So at a Catholic, yes Catholic school one bulletin board supported church teaching and one supported a lifestyle which is deemed sinful by the Catholic, yes Catholic Church? The one supporting Catholic teaching is not appropriate but the other is? We are called to love and accept all people but not love and accept all actions. As Chesterton said, “We do not want, a Church that will move with the world. We want a Church that will move the world.” No one should be made to feel threatened or less of a person but why is God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman offensive. I would ask the author, does she agree with this? It’s ok to disagree with someone and still love them. It also begs the question, why would someone who is offended by what the Catholic Church teaches attend a Catholic college.

    1. I completely echo what Jim stated in his reply. A bulletin board touting a pro gay and lesbian lifestyle was up in a dorm for the whole month of February and not a peep was said, no micro aggressions or triggers claimed by anyone at a supposedly orthodox Catholic school until this brave RA decided to clarify the Catholic Church’s unambiguous teaching regarding marriage and suddenly a whole bunch of students are threatening, ripping down posters and clammering for safe spaces!! I’m a proud alumni but I don’t recognize my alma mater anymore. PC may be out of the tournament but there sure is still a lot of March madness on campus these days. Send your kids to a real, faithful Catholic school like the one up in New Hampshire where former PC professor Anthony Esolan teaches these days.

  2. I truly am at a loss as to where to begin with the irrational thought and unfounded arguments against Catholic Identity and teachings presented in this article.

    The author begins her argument with “…Providence College community still struggles to fully accept some student’s identities’—even though it is 2018.” Yet at the very same time the author dismisses altogether the Catholic identity of the institution, of the Dominican order in which PC is founded and supposedly administered by. The institutions identity should not be excluded either from this argument; to do so discriminates and eliminates the very mission it professes; namely Catholicism.

    The author continues “…these ideas should not be forced on students, especially in a residence hall, which should be one of the safest places on campus.” My presumption is that every student that is attending and more importantly “residing” at Providence College understands that at least in name, if not by action, PC is a Catholic Institution. I’m not sure if PC has students who align or identify as believers of other faiths? My presumption is yes. If this group of students (atheist, Islam, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc) are “feeling” discriminated against or find PC to be offensive due to a statue or picture of our Blessed Lady, or the Crucifix of our Lord and Savior, or various statues commemorating the great Saints, such as Saint Dominic or Saint Thomas Aquinas because it violates their faith and belief; would PC remove these items to ensure these students “felt” safe and welcomed? To argue that this would never happen is invalid, this has and is happening at several Northeastern Catholic High Schools to be as many have argued “more inclusive.”

    SHEPARD’s argument is lacking altogether and more importantly implies their particular agenda which is against the teaching of the Church. The Church teaches that we are to respect and more importantly love everyone; as we are all created in God’s image and likeness. However, we are not to love the sin; in fact we are taught to “admonish the sinner” are we not? Believing in the faith and teachings of the Church, at a Catholic institution where “Catholics” should feel welcomed and invited to “openly” live their lifestyle without feeling admonished or threatened, is not hate speech or “homophobic behavior” as claimed SHEPARD. All students have the right to “choose” to attend the college or university that they’ve been accepted in. By “choosing” a Catholic college, the student needs to understand and accept the Catholic identity; if the college chooses to limit this identity, it therefore becomes “non-Catholic” and should be stated as such.

    Unfortunately, the administration from the President of the college through the various VP’s such as Goodwin’s approach to this event is deafening. The lack of clear and concise support of the Magisterium of the Church is loud and clear! Whatever happened to the days that members would have to complete an Oath of Fidelity if teaching or employed at a Catholic institution?

  3. The commenters here don’t seem to realize that this is a atudent run newspaper and not all students at this school major in theology or are even Catholic. Talk of the magisterium is of little interest to the average PC student. The college has an impossible job to satisfy the blood thirsty Catholic radicals whole balancing the needs and civil rights of the students.

    The fact that this atrocious situation is being fueled by present and former faculty makes it difficult to traverse. I feel bad for the administration and the good people who try to make PC the best it can be for all. The student and faculty who put you in this position should search their souls about justice.

    1. “Talk of the magisterium is of little interest to the average PC student” – this comment by Meg is very revealing and unfortunately probably very true. A comment like this is evidence of sorts that PC has essentially abandoned it’s Catholic mission in order to compete with other secular, elite institutions. I hope the thirty pieces of silver were worth it but since we’re now into Holy Week we know definitely it never will be. As I said in my previous comment, send your kids to a real, faithful and orthodox Catholic school instead – you won’t regret it! BTW, a good reference for this is the Cardinal Newman Society’s Guide for faithful Catholic school which sadly PC was once a recommended school many years ago but for obvious reasons no more.

    2. Interesting comment that one would expect from a student in lesser formation than what I presume you are, “blood thirsty Catholics.” Ironically if the other report is true is it not fact it was not the “Catholic” RA who started a fight or argument or protest or depicted another student being sodomized, it was those who “felt” hurt and unsafe due to the Catholic teaching at a Catholic school. Yet your whole focus is on the RA shouldn’t have openly displayed what Catholics profess to be true. Are you just as angry at the children who depicted the RA being sodomized?

      Just so I understand you correctly, what you are saying is Catholics at a Catholic school should not openly live there faith in peace as it may be offensive to someone else, such as proclaiming that marriage is between one man and one woman? To you and others, this Catholic speech needs to end at a Catholic school correct? What you would rather have is everything but Catholicism at PC, correct? Anything and everything goes!

      Just a thought, when you enrolled into PC, did you for once think it was a public institutions and not a Catholic institute?

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