The motto of Providence College is Veritas, meaning truth. The search for truth grounds education, community interaction, and student life in a quest for knowledge. However, this truth only goes so far: it solely extends to beliefs that align with Catholic teaching.
Last year, Stopping Homophobia, Eliminating Prejudice, and Restoring Dignity (Shepard) and Board of Programmers (BOP) hosted a week celebrating PC’s LGBTQIAA+ community on campus under the name “PC Proud.” The event was a hit and gave a voice to an underrepresented portion of the student population. The two clubs attempted to host the event again this year, but received backlash from the administration about its name.
After months of planning, the two clubs received news that the administration objected to the use of “Proud” in the name of the event. Administration took issue with this particular naming of the event because Pride is an internationally recognized organization whose political agenda, namely the fight for the legalization of gay marriage, goes against Catholic teachings.
Because the notice from the College about the lack of official approval came only two weeks before the event was set to take place, the two clubs were sent into a whirlwind trying to rescue their hard work. They later decided upon the name “Open Hearts” to emphasize the community aspect, but merchandise was already made with the name “PC Proud,” resulting in a financial loss.
Additionally, Shepard organized a speaking engagement as part of the celebrations featuring the president of Rhode Island Pride. Again, the administration objected to this particular speaker as unlikely to align with Catholic beliefs.
As the only club that represents the interests of the LGBTQIAA+ population on campus, Shepard especially seeks to reconcile Catholic teachings with their own community. The vice president of Shepard, Jolssen Rodriquez ’21, stated that during events and planning, “We have to remind ourselves a lot about what the school’s mission is and how we can have these conversations through that mission.” The unique position of Shepard as the voice of a marginalized community in a Catholic college prohibits their full engagement with the campus by fulfilling the missions of the College.
Despite the best efforts of Shepard to serve the LGBTQIAA+ community through a Catholic lens, it comes at a cost of their freedom. The Catholic Church traditionally protests against LGBTQIAA+ rights, including same-sex marriage. As a result, Shepard is in a unique position of catering to the Catholic Church or protecting the interests of LGBTQIAA+ students.
As a college, PC has a wider obligation to the rights and wellbeing of their students. Censoring the name of an event forfeits its duty to students and also interferes with the College’s mission for Veritas. In the search for truth, all access to all possible truths is critical for knowledge.
For a community that has been historically discriminated against, being proud of their identity is essential to empowerment and self-love and acceptance. It does not promote arrogance or any sin; simply a reclamation of one’s identity. While Open Hearts week is a sweet name, it lacks the connotations and nuances of the original title.
Rodriguez ’21 said, “Shepard wants to amplify that voice that the community might not think they have, but they do.” In minimizing that voice, it also limits the autonomy, power, and acceptance of LGBTQIAA+ students and allies alike.
As a foundation of PC’s mission,Veritas should stand for all truths, irrespective of religion. Even more importantly, PC should be proud of all its incredible students.