posted on: Thursday February 11, 2016
By Sabrina Guilbeault ’18
Over the past two weeks Providence College students, faculty, staff, and administration have received a multitude of “emails of solidarity” reflecting on the recent off-campus bias incident. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “solidarity,” is defined as unity that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards.
The Providence Journal published an article on Wednesday, February 3, titled, “Students Demand PC Response to Off-Campus Incident,” which was one of many outside media sources covering events that occurred in the past few weeks at Providence College. These articles stemmed from the incident which occurred on Sunday, January 31 in which a group of five female PC students of color walked to a nearby off-campus residence and were denied entrance. An investigation is presently ongoing, as the incident was reported to both the Providence Police Department and the PC Office of Campus Safety and Security.
In an email to the PC Community, President Fr. Brian Shanley, O.P. stated, “The Trustees and I want to make it abundantly clear that racism, in any form, will not be tolerated at Providence College.” He also explained that the “investigation will be thorough and fundamentally fair to everyone.”
On Tuesday, February 2, Dean Steven Sears and CDO Rafael Zapata led a conversation in the Soft Lounge in Slavin to discuss the incident. All students were invited via email and over 80 students were in attendance. Zapata and Sears led the discussion for almost three hours, in which students were encouraged to ask questions and voice opinions. One point that was mentioned at the meeting was that although change is what is fundamentally needed, it is something that cannot occur over night.
As the Providence Journal stated, students are demanding a response, and although these responses are merely written words, they are a response nonetheless. The purpose of this article is to share and reflect on the statements of solidarity that have been sent to the PC Community. The language of the emails has differentiated, but the overall and underlying message of solidarity is very present.
Student support for the five women has not gone unnoticed as major clubs on campus such as the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs, Student Congress, the Board of Programmers, and other student-led organizations have each sent a statement to the College.
“We implore the Providence College community to not stand idle towards any injustices acted towards your fellow Friars,” said the BMSA email. “Together, we can make this community a better environment for all to feel welcomed.”
The Providence College chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P) stated, “We stand in solidarity with these five women of color, and with all other persons that have been targeted, and or discriminated against.”
In an email from the 66th Student Congress, after expressing their solidarity stated, “Student Congress is here to support the students we serve in every way possible and welcome all students to engage with us as we actively seek social justice for our Friar Family. For this reason, we must continue to work to make PC the inclusive, vibrant, and diverse community we want it to be.”
Starting with the Women’s Studies program at the College, different programs and departments have also stated their solidarity. “We call on all members of the community to take action against any instances of racism and sexism, violence and oppression, that jeopardize the values we hold dear, as individuals and as an institution,” stated the email from the Women’s Studies Program.
In their statement of solidarity, the Black Studies Executive Committee quoted Audre Lorde who said, “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”
“As we look forward to PC’s centennial celebration, this is truly our moment to transform our campus and make it one where threats, suspicion, and exclusion are not tolerated under any circumstances,” said the members of the Department of Foreign Language Studies in their email. “Our moral and academic excellence as a community depends on our individual and collective ability to model the high ethical principles on which our mission and core curriculum are founded.”
In looking to expand the conversation, Fr. Shanley invited the PC community via email to join him for a campus forum yesterday.