“What is The Cowl?”

by The Cowl Editor on September 16, 2021

Editor's Column

“What is The Cowl?”

Mass Shootings’ Prevalence in American School Culture

by Nicole Patano


I did not anticipate the number of times students would ask me this question at the Involvement Fair on Sept. 5. Apparently, “Providence College’s student-run newspaper” fell short as a response—who would have thought? 

At its most fundamental, The Cowl is just as I said: a student-run newspaper. At its most literal, the cowl is the hooded part of a Dominican friar’s habit. Unfortunately, neither of these tell you much about what The Cowl really is. In the first ever issue of The Cowl, published on Nov. 16, 1935, the staff wrote, “Primarily, the COWL exists to serve the student body, not simply as a news organ, but more fundamentally as a means to foster and intensify an enthusiastic Providence College spirit and loyalty.” 

Our raison d’être has not changed much in the past 86 years; however, sometimes The Cowl’s two original goals come into conflict. It is in those instances that we must decide who we are writing on behalf of: the students or the College. Different editors-in-chief will have their own opinions, but the decision is often made on a case-by-case basis. But enough about the ethical quandaries facing me and the women and men who came before me—students can only stand in front of your table for so long before they must move on to the 50 other clubs on their list.

So what can I tell you about The Cowl that you wouldn’t know from reading it? Well, until you read this issue, I suppose. As much as The Cowl is about getting an issue on the stands each week, it is about the people who make that possible—every writer, copy editor, and editor. The relationships built on The Cowl are ones that will last long after our predecessors graduate and we follow suit. 

We may forget the articles we write (or the hundreds we read as copy editors), but we will never forget the friendships made during our time on The Cowl. Even when we don’t stay in contact with everyone with whom we once worked, we know that, wherever they are, they are thinking about The Cowl

Just a week ago, the 2012-13 news editor of The Cowl came into the office while she was visiting campus. We talked about the changes to The Cowl since she was on the staff and how the office simultaneously feels like nothing and everything is different. Before she left, she grabbed a copy of the first issue of this year’s Cowl and left a note for Maura and Addison, this year’s news editors. 

The current Cowl staff is part of an 86-year tradition. We have an obligation to continue this tradition by honoring the legacy of the staff before us and passing that legacy onto current and future staff members. If you want to be part of this tradition and find out what The Cowl truly is, next time you go to pick up an issue, pick up an application as well!