by Darren Squillace ’20
Last week, the Office of the Dean of Students added a resource page to the Providence College website directed at pregnant and parenting students and their partners. The purpose of this page, as quoted from the website, is “for any of our students or partners who find themselves pregnant or parenting during their time of studies,” and to support students who may be facing fear and anxiety if they find themselves or their partners pregnant.
Assistant Dean of Students Tiffany Gaffney and Campus Minister Sister Anne Frances Klein, O.P., both sat down to discuss what resources and options are available to a PC student who becomes pregnant. Both recognized that there are many rumors as to how the school handles pregnancy, several of which are untrue. The main myth is that if a female student discovers she is pregnant and discloses it to the school, she will either be forced or politely asked to withdraw as a student at the College. Not only did Gaffney and Sr. Anne Frances clarify that this belief among some is patently false, but that it is illegal.
Sr. Anne Frances went on to explain that the school cannot do this legally and how they would not attempt to under any circumstances. “Not only would doing that be illegal under Title IX, but it would be morally wrong of us to do to a student in a time of need,” she said. “It is a time where we may be called to a higher virtue and to show love to someone going through such a difficult time.”
They both emphasized the importance of debunking this myth. Gaffney said, “If there is one thing we hope comes out of this article, I hope it is that students who become faced with this situation, or know a friend that does, know that they will not face any punitive actions by us and that we are here to guide and help them along the journey and assist them in any way needed.”
They also made it clear to point out that not only would a pregnant student not be asked to leave, but that they also would not lose any scholarship privileges. On-campus housing is not revoked when a student discloses she is pregnant, either. Both Sr. Anne Frances and Gaffney stated that they would work with the students to try to find alternative living options for when the baby is born, as the dorms on campus are not equipped with the resources needed to raise a newborn child.
After meeting with Sr. Anne Frances and Gaffney, they made it clear that not only is such a situation handled positively by PC’s administration, but that as a community both faculty and students are called to embrace a student going through this difficult time with love. Also, they emphasized that it is important to make students aware of all the resources they have, including the ones on campus such as the Student Health Center and the Personal Counseling Center.
The quote from Pope Francis that is on the main page for pregnant and parenting students summarizes how the Catholic community is called to respond to instances of pregnancy on campus: “We are speaking of is an attitude of the heart, one which approaches life with serene attentiveness, which is capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next” (Laudato Si, 226). The new resource page can be found at https://dean-of-students.providence.edu/pregnant-parenting/