posted on: Thursday February 25, 2010
Devin Murphy ’10/ News Editor
It is election year at Providence College and Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., president of the College, has been re-elected to serve for another five-year term.
“It’s a big honor,” said Shanley.
Shanley has a rich family history at the College. In addition to being an alumnus of the Class of 1980, his father also attended PC and his mother worked here as a librarian. The College has undergone many changes since Shanley graduated, and he intends to keep the ball rolling.
Some of his goals for the next five years include working on a new core curriculum and continuing the ongoing dialogue on the subject, evangelizing the campus, keeping and hiring competitive faculty members, and raising enough money for some new athletic facilities.
Shanley wants to continue improving student facilities as well.
“One of the things that I’m proud of is that student life is better on campus,” he said.
He wants to continue to give students more new and improved spaces on campus such as Concannon Fitness Center and the new addition to the Slavin Center.
However, in his next term he will be looking to improve students’ academic experiences.
“We need some better academic facilities,” he said.
Shanley also wants to improve the College’s athletic facilities. He said that he would like to build a track for the Men’s and Women’s Track Teams and provide better fields for the Men’s and Women’s Soccer Teams.
“There’s a lot of stuff…that still excites me,” said Shanley of the improvements he would like to make to the campus. “I hope to be able to announce when the economy turns a plan about new facilities.”
Another goal that Shanley would eventually like to see come to fruition is expanding financial aid.
“[W]e still have to do more to make a Providence College education affordable,” he said.
One of the hardest decisions he struggles with each year is the decision to raise tuition, which the College is predominantly dependent on for its funds.
“Our biggest strategic challenge is that we’re endowment-poor,” said Shanley. “I think it’s a huge challenge going forward to get the Providence College community, particularly alumni, to recognize the value of long-term investment.”
The College’s endowment is currently between $130 and $140 million. However, a smaller endowment has not affected PC in the recession as it has some schools which depend on much larger endowments.
“The one thing that would really change Providence College is getting an endowment that would give us more flexibility,” said Shanley.
Much of the College’s endowment is being used to fund scholarships right now. Money remains to be one of his to worries.
“I think about money all the time right now because finances are so tight,” he said.
Other decisions which Shanley has struggled with in the past have been personnel decisions.
“I don’t want to lay anybody off and I don’t want to cut jobs,” said Shanley.
Shanley has also been confronted with some difficult issues over the past five years. One memorable issue was the strike of Hurley employees, who maintain the buildings on campus. The employees wanted a new contract with Hurley, the company which they work for, but it would not agree to one. Shanley did not get involved directly with the conflict.
“That was difficult in a different sense,” said Shanley. “Part of the difficulty of that was that [the problem] was with Hurley and its union, not Providence College…The union was obviously trying to leverage us to get the best deal that it could with Hurley. I understand that, but on the other hand when you subcontract with someone like that you don’t control everything that they do internally.”
Shanley said that the difficult to remain neutral during the negotiations was not that difficult. He said that the dialogue that ensued within the College’s gates was “truly educational for the campus.”
“I don’t look back on that like, ‘oh that was a bad situation,’ I look back on that like, ‘that was a tough situation for the College,’ because we were caught in the middle…I thought as a campus we handled it pretty well and I thought it was a learning experience, especially for the students involved.”
Another big change which Shanley has witnessed in the past five years has not occurred on campus, but just beyond its gates. He said the influx of non-PC students into the Elmhurst neighborhood has changed its dynamic and even created some tension between the College’s students and students from other schools.
“The thing that got us alarmed is in the fall is this neighborhood became party central for non-students,” said Shanley. “It created an environment that was not safe for our students.”
Shanley thinks that the Providence Police’s efforts in conjunction with the College and other schools has helped to ease the problem of off campus drinking and repair relationships with the neighborhood. He is worried that the arrival of spring may bring back old problems.
The College’s drinking culture will continue to be a concern for Shanley in his next term. It has been over three years since the College issued its initial report on undergraduate drinking habits. Shanley said that he did not expect the alcohol problem to go away in one year and that he will continue to monitor the alcohol abuse problem.
“I think our students are starting to get the message that there are laws,” he said.
Aside from all of his responsibilities as president Shanley still tries to keep in touch with the student body as much as possible. He as monthly meetings with the president of Student Congress once a month, attends Congress’ meetings, and relies on its president to organize lunches with members of the student body once a month.
“The reason I do what I do is because I love college students,” said Shanley.
He still teaches an honors philosophy course, but admits that in future years he may have to give up regular teaching hours as his commitments for fundraising increase.