by Hannah Langley ’21
It was a beautiful day in Providence, RI on Saturday, April 10. With not a cloud in the sky and the promise of a warm 70 degrees, Providence College students began to spill out of their dorm rooms and off-campus houses to enjoy the weather. Ignoring social distancing, mask mandates, and other COVID-19 protocols, many Friars on Eaton Street and in the surrounding area gathered in parking lots and on the balconies of off-campus houses in large numbers.
As videos, pictures, and other forms of evidence began to surface of the parties occurring throughout the day, students and others began to respond in outrage.
The Instagram account @BlackatPC has posted several responses from students of different class years in response to the partying. One student from the Class of ’24 stated, “I get it, people are going to throw parties, but of that capacity… just blows my mind… this same thing happened last semester: it got warm, ignorant people threw a huge party, and we were put in lockdown.” This statement provides context to the extent of the party that occurred behind the houses on Eaton Street.
Someone also commented on the fact that these kinds of large parties not only affect the PC community, but also the surrounding residents, many of whom are BIPOC. “It’s evident that Providence College is a PWI occupied by primarily selfish, privileged students with healthcare. The lack of consideration for others is quite terrifying,” said one student from the Class of ’23.
On Monday, April 12, President Father Kenneth Sicard, O.P., released a statement in response to Saturday’s events. Fr. Sicard stated, “I am concerned that [these behaviors and parties] have done damage to the reputation of the College and to your reputation as Friars. I know that you are better than this.”
Fr. Sicard continued, saying there were also reports of vandalism and other reckless behavior that endangered PC students and the larger community. He asked the PC community to continue following guidelines, saying, “Despite the progress being made through vaccinations, we are not yet out of the woods…As we approach the end of the semester and prepare to celebrate graduation, I am imploring you to keep each other safe and to avoid a recurrence of this past weekend.”
While Fr. Sicard’s message showed some concern, many members of the PC community were unsatisfied by the lack of measures taken by the College to hold students accountable for their actions. On Wednesday, April 14, Steven Sears, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, sent an email inviting off-campus students to a conversation to address concerns. “My intention for this virtual gathering is twofold,” said Sears. “For us to address and review what took place [and] to work together to identify, imagine, and construct a plan to which we can commit together that meets your needs for living off campus while centering safety and community.”
The meeting had 113 attendees: 109 off-campus students, along with Sears; Martin Connell, director of community standards; Lieutenant John Dunbar, crime prevention/community relations officer; and Eric Croce, interim chief of Public Safety.
There were several issues and questions addressed at the Zoom meeting, including discussions about the Providence Police Department’s role in monitoring off-campus residences, the consequences for students in violation of the code of conduct, and the role of on-campus students trespassing on off-campus students’ properties.
Connell addressed the fact that 1,700 COVID-19 violations have been reported since the fall. These cases have been from reports both on and off campus, resulting in suspensions and other disciplinary actions.
Off-campus students complained that part of the reason for the large size of the “darty” on Saturday was because of on-campus students coming uninvited, refusing to leave, and becoming violent when told to. In response to this, Dunbar and Croce recommended that off-campus students who feel threatened and disrespected by on-campus students refusing to leave should call Providence Police or PC Security.
Sears also stated that a message will be sent to on-campus students in the next few days, making it explicitly clear that they are not welcomed off campus if not invited and could face disciplinary action if found violating this.
As the weather continues to get nicer, and more students get vaccinated, it is evident that all students, both on and off-campus, must recommit themselves to following COVID protocols in order to see a successful completion of this semester and an in-person graduation.