by Andrea Traietti ’21
In the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting that left 17 innocent people dead, one beacon of hope continues to shine through: the work of the student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
As their passion spreads across the country, more young people are raising their voices and taking a stand. But now, concern over disciplinary action resulting from peaceful protests is building a road block for some students—and is leading some colleges like Providence College to lend support.
Since the shooting, students like Emma González, David Hogg, and Sarah Chadwick, among many others, have taken the lead in organizing rallies and marches, carrying on a social media movement, and confronting Congress members. The actions of these students display not only bravery and resilience, but the strength and power of young people everywhere.
Currently, there are two major events planned in the month of March: the national school walk out on March 14 and the “March for Our Lives” that will occur on March 24. The movement aims especially to get young people involved, asserting that gun control laws would directly improve the safety of students across the country.
Since the current movement to end gun violence not only draws inspiration from the strength of students, but is also aiming to involve young people across the country, concerns have been raised about how student involvement in protests may affect college admission. For example, if a high school student who chooses to participate in the national walk out receives disciplinary action, it will appear on his or her transcript. Colleges in turn use this transcript to make final admission decisions. Therefore, students may encounter college admission difficulties if their choice to peacefully protest earns them some form of disciplinary action.
Many colleges, including Providence College, have chosen to lend support to students who peacefully protest and stand up for what they believe in.
“When we learned that some high schools were threatening to punish students for their activism and using their college prospects as something to hold over their head, we wanted to make sure that students felt free to express themselves in a peaceful and constructive manner without the prospect of attending PC going away,” said Owen Bligh ’10, associate dean of admission at the College.
He added, “What sort of message would we be sending if we were to punish students who are standing up for the beliefs they have developed after much thinking?”
Therefore, in an effort which both protects applicants and supports student voices, the Office of Admission released a statement concerning the admission process at the College. “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,” wrote the Office of Admission in a post on their Facebook page on Feb. 24.
In the post, the Office of Admission acknowledged the College’s veritas, or truth, motto and the emphasis on standing up for one’s beliefs. “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 Facebook post concluded.
“Current members of the PC community, but most importantly school counselors and prospective students, were pleased to see we were one of the first schools to make a statement,” said Bligh.
This positive feedback is certainly well-deserved. The decision by the Office of Admission represents a step in the right direction not only in terms of free speech on campus right now, but for the future of the College on the whole. In current times, it is critical that we acknowledge the necessity of free speech in the media, on college campuses, and in our lives in general.
The statement by the Office of Admission proves that free speech is not only permitted at PC, but is valued. As the College looks to its second centennial, it is critical that PC students—and the institution itself—continue to lend this support not only on campus, but in larger our community, in the pursuit of truth.