On Tuesday, Jan. 24, new members Lucy Norton ’24 and Nathan Cross ’26 were sworn into Congress as a junior class Representative and the freshmen class Treasurer, respectively. Student Congress also welcomed Sharon Hay, the director of the S.A.I.L. Office and Slavin Center, and Maggie Valton, the Associate Director of Student Activities. The two began by sharing that their goal this year is to involve the S.A.I.L. office in over 600 events. Student Congress has a partnership with the S.A.I.L. office in order to support clubs and organizations around campus. The projects the office is working on include bringing back the Student Recognition Program, working collaboratively with Orientations Transitions and Leadership, and training executive boards of clubs to emphasize leadership on campus. A main accomplishment of the office this year is the transition to the PC Central app, powered by Campus Groups. They describe it as a one-stop shop for clubs and organizations to promote their events, keep records from year to year, maintain active membership, help with budgeting, easily manage files, and have accurate attendance numbers for events.
S.A.I.L. graciously welcomed questions from the members of Student Congress. One student asked if there is a way to get more familiar with PC Central, and Maggie referenced a video tutorial she was working on that could be shared with students to teach them how to use the new technology. Another member followed up, asking if they considered working with Orientation, Transition, and Leadership to promote the new idea. This is a plan S.A.I.L. expects to pursue in the upcoming school year. Another student asked about the best way to provide the office with feedback, wondering if there is an alternative to direct emails.: “We currently do not have an anonymous way,” S.A.I.L. responded. Within 24 hours of attendance to an event through Campus Groups, students will receive emails asking for feedback.
The next member asked for details on the College’s guest speaker policy. Hay went into detail regarding the process for a speaker’s approval. She suggested meeting with the office for initial vetting and providing a proposal stating why a speaker would be beneficial to campus. Every external speaker is reviewed by the Office of Mission and Ministry. Requesting a speaker as early as possible also aids the process.
Hay asked for suggestions from Student Congress regarding increasing the presence of students at events. Their office is open to suggestions for events that students would enjoy, or alternative ways of advertisement. The speakers notified members of Congress that posters can only be posted in Raymond Dining Hall and Slavin when they are approved by Student Activities. Since there is limited space, posters are rotated regularly. However, electronic advertisements can also be approved by the office. One member asked if they have considered providing more digital advertising in Slavin, to which Hay and Valton said they would look into it as a plausible solution. We are grateful to have heard from these campus leaders and look forward to continuing our partnership with them.
Another important announcement from Student Congress: the executive board has finalized their mid-year review, which is available on the Congress website and Instagram. Allocations for clubs will be occurring soon for all Student Congress-funded clubs on campus.
Dean Sears, during his announcements, notified Student Congress about two public safety issues that occurred on campus these past weeks, one of which took place in McDermott. The students affected are safe and the perpetrator was apprehended by Public Safety, who responded immediately after being contacted by students and a resident assistant. Information regarding what happened was included in a campus-wide email. Members of Congress responded with feedback regarding safety on campus. Students suggested that more information should be passed on to students, especially those who live in the residence hall where an incident has occurred. Depending on the severity of the situation, students also requested that an arrest made on campus should be shared with the community. This transparency would give students a sense of comfort and awareness. It is a new hope that resident assistants will be used to effectively communicate with students to provide a sense of comfort and community. Legislation is in the process by members of Student Congress to enhance safety in dorms, specifically regarding renovations.
At the next meeting, on Jan. 31, Student Congress welcomed Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, Sean Reid. Provost Reid began by outlining what he is responsible for within his role, which includes working with the Registrar, the Financial Aid Office, the Study Abroad Office, the Phillips Memorial Library, and the Student Success Center. He then began to address one of the issues that was brought to his attention prior to attending our meeting, which was in regard to the retention rate of faculty of color within the Providence College community. He acknowledged that there have been and continue to be departures of well-known and respected faculty members of color recently but provided data to argue that although the issue is evident, it may not be as severe as some expect. The data did show that the BIPOC retention rates were lower than the overall retention rate, by a small percentage. He noted that there is a task force in place to look into the issue and help create solutions. He also stated that most of the faculty who choose to leave do so because they are presented with better opportunities at other institutions.
Provost Reid then opened up the floor for questions from the members of the Student Congress. One member asked if there were any goals in place to increase diversity on campus, in both the faculty and the student body. The Provost responded that there have been revisions for strategic planning regarding diversity and how to ensure that students feel included.
Members also were curious about the Honors Program. There will be significant changes in the new leaders chosen for the program. He assured students that the new leaders will have his full support to reinvigorate the Honors Program. He also noted that they are working to make Honors extracurriculars more affordable. He was interested in the idea of allowing early registration for Honors students but wants to avoid an environment of entitlement that could create.
The next member inquired about the growing class size, and Provost Reid responded by saying that the target enrollment for the class of 2027 is 1200, including 100 additional students for the Nursing and Health Sciences program. He reassured students that with growing class sizes, it is still Providence College’s commitment to keep undergraduate classes below 20 students and to maintain an 11:1 faculty-to-student ratio.
A final member asked what steps were taken by the college if a tenured professor receives a complaint. Provost Reid insisted that it does not matter if a professor is tenured and that students are able to talk to their professors, the department chair, their dean, and himself if needed. There is a process for resolving issues in place and each scenario will be dealt with accordingly.
The 73rd Student Congress would like to thank Sharon Hay, Maggie Volton, and Provost Reid for their time and sincerity when answering these questions.