by Micaela Freeman ’20
Last month, as Providence College began its academic school year, the Providence College Women’s Studies Program reported an act of vandalism. Among other information from students and faculty, camera footage has confirmed that the perpetrator was a Providence College faculty member. The faculty member removed posters, signage, facts, and flyers from the office doors of the women’s studies center, located in Phillips Memorial Library.
According to the program’s website, the Women’s Studies Program at PC strives to help women learn about the differing lives and histories of women that emphasize diversity and encourages involvement in the female community at Providence. “Women’s studies courses place women’s lives, perspectives, and experiences at the center of inquiry, and emphasize race, class, gender, sexuality, culture, ethnicity, nationality, age, and ableism as intersecting categories of analysis,” according to the website.
Dr. Abigail Brooks, director of the Women’s Studies Program and associate professor, said she is appreciative of the community’s positive response to the incident, as well as the College’s motivation to handle the situation.
“The Women’s Studies program is pleased overall with the response of college leadership to this incident,” Brooks said, “a response which was prompt, serious, and well-communicated.”
On behalf of the Program, Brooks remains hopeful for the program’s future, but wants to take cautionary steps to avoid another incident. She also wants to re-establish the positive and supportive community the department has created over the past several years. She adds, however, that she still wants to see growth and development not only in the department, but in the College as a whole. “I believe I speak for many of us, both inside and outside of the women’s studies community, who would like to see more proactive work on behalf of college leadership towards creating a truly welcoming community for all students, staff, and faculty.” Brooks continues, saying, “[I hope for] a community wherein all members feel safe and supported, and wherein all can thrive.”
The reason for the anger towards the Women’s Studies Program is unknown. Upon investigating the incident, the College took rapid and appropriate steps in correcting the situation, which includes, but is not limited to, banning the individual who vandalized the office from campus and investigating the situation further.
PC’s acting president, Father Kenneth Sicard, O.P., notified the student body via email about this early last week, saying that the situation will be corrected. Sicard later added that he wants the entire PC community to know that he and other administrative staff are working to make PC a more welcoming place for everyone, saying, “As a priest, and as an administrator, I will continue to work with the faculty, staff, and students who are passionately committed to making Providence College a more loving and inclusive community.”
Sicard also said that he not only wants to correct this specific situation, but also to hopefully correct previous accusations and concerns directed towards the College. Along with the goal of making the campus a more welcoming atmosphere, Sicard said he wants every student and staff member to feel respected personally and academically on a Catholic campus.
“The vandalism that occurred recently in women’s studies, as well as previous incidents of a similar nature, are a painful reminder that we, as a community, are not yet where we should be,” Sicard said. “On a Catholic and Dominican campus, the dignity of each person should be honored, and differences respected.” Diversity is one of the major focuses in the College’s new strategic plan, and Sicard is hopeful that such an initiative can be met in the future.