Student Involvement: the Key to Community Connection

by The Cowl Editor on May 3, 2018


Students wait in line at Dunkin Donuts in the Slavin Center. Faith Allen-Harris ’21/The Cowl.

Legislation recently passed by Student Congress will help students in the public and community service studies’ philanthropy course to better connect the Providence College campus with the Smith Hill Community—a connection that could use some serious help.

In the past, students in the philanthropy course have been given a $15,000 grant from various donors and tasked with deciding which local organization would be awarded the funds. With the passage of recent legislation, revenue generated from the Dunkin’ Donuts in Slavin Center will now fund the grant-making component of the course.

The change is a small step towards a more mutual and meaningful relationship between PC and the Smith Hill Community. It will also lend greatly to the public and community service studies department’s mission to engage its students with real-world problem solving.

Class president Sean Richardson ’20 commented on the reasons behind the funding switch: “Students felt like this should be changed because we don’t really know where our money goes from Dunkin’.”

Students of the philanthropy course are perfectly positioned to address this issue, as it is their responsibility throughout the semester to make difficult funding decisions that directly impact the local community.

Richardson added, “Through the philanthropy course, we should be seeing where the money would be going as well as still being involved in the Providence community.”

While prior charitable giving of Dunkin’ Donuts revenue to Catholic Relief Services was well aligned with the College’s mission of “service of God and neighbor,” this switch to local causes demonstrates commitment to serving our closest neighbor through the department best equipped to do so.

Community partnerships with Smith Hill community groups and organizations are nothing new. The global studies and public and community service departments have long made civic engagement a central component of their pedagogies and curricula. These departments are relatively small, however, and outreach from the College itself has not been as apparent in years past. 

Ideally, the Smith Hill Community would perceive the donation of Dunkin’ Donuts’ revenue to local causes as the school’s way of extending a hand outside its gates and security guard booths. This kind of genuine community outreach on behalf of the College is desperately needed, as the relationship between the College and the surrounding neighborhoods has historically been one of disconnect and even disdain.

Students living in off-campus housing still resent and fear Smith Hill, even while off-campus festivities prove time and again to pose a far greater threat to student safety than any local resident.

Real change in student perception of Smith Hill, and vice versa, will take years to accomplish. The current hostile relationship presents a great need for social change right outside our campus, change that will inevitably be incremental and wrought with setbacks.

While the philanthropy course has been giving to local organizations since its inception—and while the global studies and public and community service departments have always tried to engage in meaningful partnerships with the community—efforts on the part of the College as a whole are far more significant because they are far less common.

Outreach from the PC administration in the form of revenue generated by its most prized possession is a rarity that students should demand to see more of.