Seniors’ Final Words: Student Leaders Talk Social Justice at PC
by Nicole Patano ‘22, Co-Asst. Head Copy Editor, and Savannah Plaisted ‘21, Opinion Co-Editor
The class of 2021 has been through a great deal—the second semester of their junior year was interrupted by the pandemic and a transition to fully remote learning for the first time in their lives, and through their senior year they have had to cope with going between in-person and remote classes.
The class is now graduating into a not yet fully recovered economy and one of the most difficult years to get accepted into postgraduate schools due to an increased interest in students returning for postgraduate degrees.
The seniors also had to endure all of this against the backdrop of the largest civil rights movement in recent decades. In response to this, schools, businesses, and organizations across the country have been forced to reconcile with diversity, equity, and inclusion issues; of which Providence College has been no exception.
Even through all of this, the senior class worked incredibly hard. They did not allow the immense obstacles they faced to dissuade them from working towards social change on PC’s campus and beyond. In many cases, student leaders took charge in pushing for social change on campus.
The Cowl reached out to 50 seniors who have been active and involved in student organizations leading social justice initiatives on campus with four prompts that they could respond to. Students were not required to respond to all prompts; however, some chose to. Since most of the responses The Cowl received pertained to students’ opinions on diversity, equity, and inclusion on PC’s campus, the article has centered this theme. This article is meant to provide a platform for these students to reflect on their time at PC and voice their opinions on the status of diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, one last time as undergraduates at the College. While some students allowed The Cowl to share their names, we ask that the privacy of those students who chose to use their initials or to remain anonymous be respected. The Cowl selected the responses below for publication because they best capture the sentiments and hopes of many students who responded to The Cowl’s request for comment and because they pertain to the article’s intended goal of highlighting the experience of doing social activism at the College. The Cowl thanks all of the seniors who provided responses for this article.
“What would you like to say to PC administration before you graduate?”
CR ’21: “In a short few weeks, I will be graduating from this institution, burnt-out, exhausted, and frustrated with the lack of initiative displayed to address various institutional issues and the constant gaslighting/defusing of student/faculty activism. Unfortunately, PC never felt like home to me. I constantly think about what my undergraduate experience would’ve been like if I transferred to an institution that took student/faculty demands seriously. Thus, I urge you all to re-evaluate the ways in which you silence minoritized students & faculty members by your lack of action.”
Anonymous ’21: “Providence College, you have made a tough, loud woman out of me. It was, however, at the cost of discrimination and exclusion.”
Jolssen Rodriguez ’21: “I can vividly see the more power you have, the less control you have. Remember why you chose your position and remember the people you are supposed to support (us, the students) versus the people you like to support.”
Estarlyn Hiraldo ’21: “Stop settling for less. Put the students first.”
Emili Castro ’21: “As a BIPOC student, I rarely felt a part of the Friar Family. I know I am not the only one—Providence College, do better.”
“How would you describe your experience at Providence College?”
Estarlyn Hiraldo ’21: “My experience at Providence College was one to be remembered, but never had again. I did not feel supported as underrepresented students should be. But I am grateful for the challenges and hardships that made me a stronger person.”
Junielly Vargas ’21: “It was the best of times and the worst of times but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. Thank you for pushing me to the strongest version of myself.”
Talysha Rivera ’21: “I would describe my experience at Providence College as a microcosm of our American capitalistic society. The racism, sexism, classism, and the anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment on top of the pressure to succeed academically and prepare for your career is extremely exhausting. Providence College taught me the harsh reality of the society we live in and has encouraged me to create my own reality and find security in myself.”
Jolssen Rodriguez ’21: “I was forced to grow up and not into a “presentable adult” but to grow up and realize that the microcosm of PC was really the front-line battle of survival and resilience. I am stronger because I had to be, not because I wanted to be.”
Anonymous ’21: “Honestly, frustration. I understand that change moves slow, but that slow movement towards progress sometimes seems like an intentional effort to disempower and frustrate students so that they give up in calling for change.”
Shannon Sullivan ’21: “My time at PC has changed my view of the world. I have grown a lot during my four years, and I attribute much of that to my role as a student leader fighting for change on campus.”
“What is your hope for the future of Providence College?”
Anonymous ’21: “My hope for the future of Providence College is to hold students accountable for their wrongdoings, actually listen to staff and faculty, and follow up with action. I hope marginalized, BIPOC, and LGBTQ students are valued and respected more by their peers, staff, faculty, and administration.”
Julia Murphy ’21: “My hope for the future of Providence College is that PC keeps striving to be a place where everyone feels at home and can thrive—regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc.—not only academically, but socially and emotionally…Throughout my time at PC, I have felt loved, welcomed, and supported every step of the way. It is my hope that every single student is provided with the opportunities and relationships to experience those same things.”
Jolssen Rodriguez ’21: “I hope PC learns what it means to hold the name “Providence.” I want to return to PC and see the city of Providence be accurately, equitably, and honorably represented and, if not, then have a donor pay to change your name.”
Estarlyn Hiraldo ’21: “I hope that going forward, Providence College becomes a more inclusive and less narrow-minded institution, more accepting of diverse identities and perspectives even if they do not align with traditional Catholic values.”
Carly Johnson ’21: “My hope for the future of PC is to create an atmosphere that is more diverse and accepting of every student. I feel that progress needs to be made to ensure that our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ community members can feel wholly safe and included on campus. I also hope that students can feel accepted regardless of their religious beliefs.”
Kevin Schwalm ’21: “My hope is that the College will continue to re-evaluate how it handles different issues for students on campus, so it can truly become an inclusive environment for every student.”
Anna Russo ’21: “I hope for a more collective Friar Family that is socially responsible and filled with more active listeners.”
Shannon Sullivan ’21: “I hope to come back and see long-demanded changes implemented. In essence, I hope PC becomes a better and more welcoming environment in the years to come.”
“What or who has been your safe haven during your time at PC?”
Anonymous ’21: “Other student activists such as those in BMSA, Shepard, PC DSA, PC CAR. I probably would have transferred if I didn’t know that other people were helping fight for change.”
Estarlyn Hiraldo ’21: “If it wasn’t for my family, friends, club safe spaces like WDOM and OLAS, and mentors like Liz Lombard, Ralph Tavares, Taiwo Adefiyifu, the Personal Counseling Center, my professors (to mention a few), I would not have persevered during my time at PC. They’ve held me up at my lowest points.”
Jolssen Rodriguez ’21: “Thank you to the students, faculty, and staff who saw me and smiled. Thank you to the student leaders and activists that allowed me to create my space on campus and understand who I am.”