Sicard Holds Conversation on State of Campus: Racism and Election Among Hot Topics

by The Cowl Editor


Campus


Fr. Sicard just recently recognized his 100th day as President of PC. Photo courtesy of Providence College.

by Hannah Langley ’21

News Co-Editor

Since Father Kenneth Sicard, O.P., became president of Providence College, he has made an effort to host numerous conversations regarding the College’s response to racism and COVID-19.

On Monday, Nov. 2, Fr. Sicard invited all students, faculty, and staff to a community conversation held virtually over Zoom. This conversation specifically focused on the College’s response to systemic racism and the College’s action plans to prevent incidents of racism and move towards becoming a more inclusive community. 

This community conversation was just one Zoom session in a series held by Fr. Sicard and other members of the PC administration and staff, including Jacqueline Peterson, special advisor to the president for diversity, equity, and inclusion; Steven Sears, dean of students and vice president for student affairs; and Father James Cuddy, O.P., vice president for Mission and Ministry and director of the center for Catholic and Dominican studies. 

This particular conversation was open to the entire PC community and was held as a closed Zoom session rather than in a webinar format. Fr. Sicard previously received backlash on his decision to hold these conversations as webinars, as some members of the PC community argued that webinars stifled conversation and real-time comments. 

The conversation was moderated by Leigh Anne Cappello, chief experience officer at Kinetic Seeds, a design consultancy that has been working with Fr. Sicard and others on creating solutions to fix systemic racism in the PC community. As a PC alumna, Cappello also feels personally attached to and invested in this work.

To begin the conversation, Fr. Sicard talked about how he was a first-generation college graduate from PC, so the College has always had a special place in his heart. “Being the beloved community is an essential part of our mission and part of our Catholic and Dominican identity,” said Fr. Sicard. He does recognize, however, that not everyone feels like they are part of that beloved community yet. “Even at PC, we are not immune to the sins of racism,” said Fr. Sicard. 

He talked about how he is “willing to re-examine the way [the College does] things,” but that does not mean mistakes will not be made along the way. “This is really hard work and we’re going to make mistakes along the way,” Fr. Sicard said. “But we can’t let our mistakes stifle our progress and work.”

To open the conversation, Cappello invited all those present to share their own experiences and feelings about systemic racism through a metaphor. She gave the template, “Being [me] is like ______ when it should be like _____.” This exercise was open to all attendants, and the goal of the exercise was to help everyone try to understand a certain issue or feeling through a different type of lens. 

All of the metaphors written were able to be viewed publicly by those on the Zoom call through the chat feature. Some of the metaphors were then further discussed by attendees. Fr. Sicard commented that while he found some of the metaphors “upsetting,” he also found them “enlightening.”

The conversation then shifted to questions either submitted ahead of time or asked live publicly over the Zoom call.  

When asked about action items the College will be taking to address systemic racism, Fr. Sicard and Peterson talked about the several steps they have already taken. These steps included the creation of  a student advisory board, the beginning of “Friarside Chats” with students and student clubs and organizations, new reporting tools for bias incidents, and implicit bias training. 

Another question answered during this time addressed alt-right Catholic conservative teaching at PC. Both Fr. Sicard and Fr. Cuddy addressed this question, saying the Dominican tradition and PC’s teachings do not follow any beliefs preached by magazines such as Crisis Magazine and Church Militant, but only the Bible and other documents of the Catholic Church. 

A question was also asked regarding how the College can work towards amplifying BIPOC voices. Fr. Sicard agreed that it should not fall on only the BIPOC community to begin conversations and educate others on racism and bias. 

As this conversation was held the night before Election Day, Noah DeRossi-Goldberg ’22 asked what the College would do to prevent  racism from  prevailing on campus even if it prevails throughout the country. Many faculty and staff responded to DeRossi-Goldberg’s question, saying that racism will not be tolerated, that we are all here to protect one another, and that we must hold one another accountable for our behaviors. The overarching theme of responses was that we all must respect and protect one another regardless of political views. 

More interactive portions of the Zoom call included participants being asked to think of someone who embodies the ideal state of the College and utilized breakout rooms to discuss collective ownership in depth, especially as it pertains to the PC community. 

After the group discussions, Peterson talked about her appreciation and gratitude towards Fr. Sicard and other members of the PC community in their work towards developing collective ownership. 

Dr. Oscar Santos, executive director at the Center for Collaborative Education, was invited to speak to the PC community on the topic of collective ownership, as well. He discussed how he has worked with other colleges and institutions on his idea of a three-level model for collective ownership. These levels include creating voice and ownership, looking at all different aspects of the community, and building a capacity to build a culture.

Fr. Sicard closed the night’s call by thanking the PC community for their openness and honesty. He pledged his commitment to having more conversations like the one that night and in working towards creating a truly beloved community. 

Nick Sailor ’17: Soccer, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

by The Cowl Editor


Athlete of the Week


Former Soccer Player Returns to Campus

by Jack Belanger ’21

Sports Coeditor

Nick Sailor ’17 can be associated with a lot of firsts since stepping onto campus back in 2013. He was the first male student to graduate as a women’s studies major, co-founded the Black Chalk Corps Council within Teach for America down in Baltimore, and was named Providence College’s first director of training and education for diversity, equity, and inclusion back in October, a new position created by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the athletics department to help promote these ideals within athletics but across campus.

And ironically, had another school not been recruiting him to play soccer, Sailor may not have found the College at all.

Photo Courtesy of PC Athletics

Sailor and his father came to Providence to meet with a coach who worked at a different school within the city. The two arrived early and Sailor’s father suggested they visit PC to kill some time. Immediately, Sailor fell in love with the campus, though it was not until later in his recruitment process that he got the chance to consider PC.

“As the [recruiting] process got going they reached out to me, because they were interested in me as a soccer player,” Sailor said. “And I told them ‘I actually really liked this school from a while ago.’ It all came together where I fell in love with the school first then the soccer part came second.”

For the next four years, Sailor showed what it meant to be true student-athlete, finding great success on and off the field. He played four seasons for the men’s soccer team and was named co-captain during his senior year. While he only scored three goals in his career, it was the last one that came at one of the most important moments in the program’s history. It was the second round of the NCAA tournament against the undefeated University of Maryland where the Friars found themselves down 2-4 with just over 20 minutes left in the game.

After the Friars forced a turnover and went on the attack, Sailor found himself with the ball outside the box and ripped a shot from the right that was just out of the Terrapin goalie’s reach. The goal closed the gap 4-3 and helped fuel the Friars’ comeback. They eventually upset Maryland 5-4. Sailor admitted that it was not until after the game was won that he was able to appreciate the goal.

“If I took a second to think about how crazy the goal was, I think I would have been out of order,” Sailor explained. “So, all I was thinking was, ‘This can’t be my last game,’ and I was focused on what I could do next to keep things going.”

While Sailor played on some successful teams, what he took away most from his time on the team was the brotherhood they built and connections he continues to keep with former teammates and former coaches.

For as much of an impact he made on the field, Sailor made just as much of one off of it. He served as the President of Student-Athlete Advisory Council, a Friar Foundation mentor, and sang with the Footprints Gospel Choir. Rather than focusing his studies in one area, Sailor double-majored in sociology and women’s studies, while also minoring in black studies, fitting for someone who has spent his time after graduating focused on empowering others and striving for inclusivity everywhere he goes.

Upon graduation, Sailor joined Teach for America and moved to Baltimore, where he became a special education math teacher at Walter P. Carter Elementary & Middle School. Not only did he help shape young students, Sailor worked on supporting black educators in the Baltimore area.

“It was a good time for me to be there after graduating. It was good to go to a new place and while it was challenging at times, I was surrounded by many talented young black entrepreneurs and learned from them to grow as a young professional.”

In Baltimore, Sailor helped co-found the Black Chalk Corps Council, a group within the Baltimore corps that strived not only to help empower black educators within the classroom but also outside in the community. He pointed out that data shows that black educators go through challenges on a day-to-day basis that other groups do not experience, such as having to be a disciplinarian. Sailor stressed that it is important to support black educators since they only make up 10 percent of all educators, yet they have a great value in public schools.

“The Council gave us the support to help black teachers flourish which, in turn, allows for our students to flourish. And overall that was our goal: to see our students be successful.”

After two years in Baltimore, Sailor received a call from PC about a new position that focused on diversity in athletics. It seemed like a perfect fit for him after showing passion in promoting diversity during his time in school. Eventually it was announced on Oct. 25 that Sailor would become the College’s first-ever director of training and education for diversity, equity and inclusion, a position that is not very common in colleges across the country.

Since it is such a new position, Sailor says most of his day-to-day work involves what he calls “infrastructure building.” Not only does he plan for what the next year will look like, but also set the stage for the position years down the road. While having no predecessor has its challenges, Sailor enjoys how much freedom he has to shape the job to fit the needs and culture of PC.

One of his biggest goals in his new role is to push the value of student-athletes’ mental health, something that he brought up during his time as a student-athlete. He also wants to connect with the entire athletic department and push the ideals he has been promoting since day one.

“For me, I want to bring the value of inclusion, diversity, and equity and show how it can be valuable to the different facets of the athletic department.”

One of the initiatives Sailor has already created is called “Wisdom Over Waffles.” The monthly event gathers the athletic staff into one room to discuss topics of diversity and inclusion in how it relates to sports over chicken and waffles. Sailor is focused on creating consistent events that continue the conversation of diversity rather than just one-time events such as bringing in speakers. He has given presentations to different teams while trying to connect to students as much as he can.

Looking back on his time as a student, Sailor believed the two things that have helped shape his career has been discipline and commitment. When it came to teaching, he believed in the idea of being a light for others and doing everything he had to support students.

“No one had to convince me to work hard. No one had to convince me to get up early and prepare. I knew if I had the passion in something, I could give it everything I had.”

This drive and passion that has led Sailor to create change everywhere he has gone. He has been given the tools to have an influential impact at PC for years to come.

Working Towards PC Equality: IDEI Department Establishes Student Representative Groups

by The Cowl Editor


Campus


Student representatives meet to discuss future plans. Nora Johnson ’20/THECOWL

by Hannah Langley ’21

News Co-Editor

For several years now, Providence College administration, students, and faculty have been working towards creating a PC200 plan that includes many initiatives, such as the promotion of more diversity and inclusion on campus. Recently, the office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (IDEI) at PC has established two student groups to help the College fulfill this goal. 

These two groups, the Advocates of a Beloved Community (ABC) and the Student Diversity Advisory Council (SDAC), are both comprised of around a dozen students, each representing a different student organization or club on campus. 

According to a formal document from Quincy Bevely, assistant vice president of institutional diversity, the “Advocates” and council members “will be trained in areas related to cross-cultural understanding, micro-macro aggressions, restorative practices, and conflict resolution.” 

Furthermore, ABC will provide the PC community with events that will promote further awareness about bias and hate, giving students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to, according to the same document, “engage in anti-bias education, advocacy, and solidarity.”

As previously mentioned, multiple students were chosen for each of the groups, representing various PC clubs and organizations, including Student Congress, Board of Programmers (BOP), Friars Club, Board of Multicultural Student Affairs (BMSA), Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), Stopping Homophobia, Eliminating Prejudice and Restoring Dignity (SHEPARD), Campus Ministry, Orientation Leaders (OL), Residence Assistants (RA), Peer Mentoring Program (PMP), Horizons, Providence Immigration Rights Coalition (PIRC), Brotherhood, NAACP, ALPHA, ESports, The Cowl, and Believers of Word (BOW). 

Jacqueline Peterson, special advisor to the president, talked about her role in the IDEI department and her part in creating these groups. “The priority goal,” she said, “has been to implement a structure and collaborative partnerships on campus to identify the strategic direction for the College’s DEI initiative.” Her role in this is to provide leadership to not only the student groups, but also to the educators and faculty in the IDEI department. 

The purpose of SDAC, Peterson said, is to “empower students to lead and promote a campus environment that is committed to equity, social justice, and inclusive excellence.” ABC’s role is to “develop appropriate educational, supportive, and restorative strategies to address campus climate issues that may arise in the wake of bias-related incidents and prevent further occurrences.” 

Along with Bevely and Peterson, Nick Sailor ’17, the director of training and education for IDEI, and Kalan Lewis, a current graduate assistant, have had an integral part in making these two student groups and continuing to work with them and the PC community to promote diversity and inclusion. 

Earlier this year, Bevely selected students to represent each of these organizations. Acklynn Byamugisha ’20, advocate for BMSA, talked about the selection, saying, “I was chosen by Quincy [Bevely] and I was more than thrilled to take on the position.” Both Byamugisha and Elizabeth Duffy ’23, advocate for Campus Ministry, talked about how their roles will be in building more respect around campus, creating a greater cultural awareness, and highlighting differences across cultures. Byamugisha talked more about this, saying, “Multiculturalism goes beyond race [and] what the eyes are able to see.”

Duffy is hopeful that the group will be able to cultivate awareness and change on campus, saying, “I feel like there is always room to grow in becoming a close-knit community of friends, and I’m hopeful that this newfound deeper sense of family and love will radiate into the world when students graduate.”

Ricardo Guzman ’20, representative for the SDAC and president of SHEPARD, talked about how their group is also going to promote equality and awareness, saying they plan on having meetings starting next semester to hear more about what various clubs and organizations have planned for promoting diversity and change. “It is one thing to work with the student body,” said Guzman, “but through this group we hope to create institutional change.”

On Nov. 13, both groups met in Moore Hall to begin training with Diane Goodman, who has devoted her life to training, consulting, teaching, speaking, and writing about diversity and social justice. Goodman came to PC’s campus to meet with the students from both of these groups in order to prepare them in their roles and for their lives in the future, as well. 

Both groups will be beginning work next semester, and Bevely is excited for what is to come.

Eliminating Stereotype Threat on PC’s Campus: How the College Community Can Work to Improve Race Relations

by The Cowl Editor


Opinion


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

by Savannah Plaisted ’21

Asst. Opinion Editor

Stereotype threat is commonly not considered a form of racism, and as a result of that, is a phenomenon that seemingly pervades the Providence College community undetected. Statements provided by students of minority racial backgrounds shed light on this issue’s continued presence on campus.  

It is well known that PC provides many extracurricular programs as well as curriculum requirements that intend to bridge the gap between various groups on campus. But is this really enough if students still feel uncomfortable in their classes as a result of being called out to speak on behalf of their race?  

Stereotype threat is defined as “the experience of being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype of one’s group,” (Steele and Aronson, 1995). In other words, it is the fear by members of minority groups that they will fall suit to negative stereotypes associated with their race or ethnicity. This phenomenon results in disengaging behaviors that can be extremely harmful to a student’s ability to participate and feel comfortable in a classroom setting.  

This information stems from the PC class Urban Education, which seeks to educate students on how best to teach within an urban district, as well as how systemic racism is active within the education system.  

PC is known to rank consistently among the most segregated colleges in the U.S., and  according to the Princeton Review the College came in third in 2019. With that, it is quite clear that the various actions the College is taking to bridge the gap are failing. 

Hieu Minh Nguyen ‘20 said, “Whenever topics regarding Asian countries come up, professors look at me and expect me to say something about the matter… I feel like I was singled out in that situation, and I feel very uncomfortable.” 

A person’s heritage is not reason enough to call them out in a public setting to discuss their background. Some people are more knowledgeable about their backgrounds than others,  and therefore singling them out to answer said questions results in a very uncomfortable experience.  

If a student wishes to share their racial or ethnic experience, or their family’s experience, it is more than acceptable to do so, but no one should feel forced into it. This is especially the case given that it is more than likely students of color who are called upon to share their experience.  

Similarly, Ghiana Guzman ‘21 said, “As a Puerto Rican woman I have been stereotyped to be ‘crazy.’ So yes, in a classroom or otherwise professional setting, I very much intentionally code switch…I have had experiences in my major in which a professor specifically called on me or looked to me to talk about my culture, my experience as a Latina, or to help pronounce something in Spanish.” 

If a student feels that they have to be more conscious of what they say in a classroom in order to avoid exhibiting the stereotypes they are typically associated with, how are they going to feel comfortable enough to make valuable contributions to class discussions? Likewise, if they did not intend to speak on a topic relating to the identity they associate with, why should a professor ask them to do so?  

Solutions for this issue vary, but one of the biggest things that the school can encourage professors to do is to let those that wish to speak out on behalf of their background choose when to do so. They must refrain completely from calling on students on the basis of their race.  

The Center for Teaching Excellence provides new faculty orientations that are “designed to welcome new faculty into the ongoing campus dialogue about teaching and learning,” according to the PC website. However, the question then becomes how much emphasis is placed on the harms of concepts like stereotype threat, and with that, how often are professors refreshed on these teachings? 

Accordingly, PC should foster more conversations on race in which an emphasis is placed on learning what is considered stereotyping and how the concept of stereotype threat plays a role in modern day society. The College can achieve this feat by re-analyzing the diversity proficiency in terms of which courses fulfill the core.  

According to PC’s page on the diversity proficiency, “Students will demonstrate proficiency in diversity, understood as either cross-cultural or involving diversity within the American context through a designated course as approved by the Core Curriculum Committee.” With that, how does a course such as the political science department’s Urban Politics, which delves deep into the racial discrepancies in U.S. cities, not cover such a requirement?  

It is clearly evident that the College has a long way to go in bettering its record on racial relations, but given that clarity, this should be a top priority for the administration and professors to work through. What’s next, PC? 

Eliminating Stereotype Threat on PC’s Campus: How the College Community Can Work to Improve Race Relations

by The Cowl Editor


Opinion


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

by Savannah Plaisted ’21

Asst. Opinion Editor

Stereotype threat is commonly not considered a form of racism, and as a result of that, is a phenomenon that seemingly pervades the Providence College community undetected. Statements provided by students of minority racial backgrounds shed light on this issue’s continued presence on campus.  

It is well known that PC provides many extracurricular programs as well as curriculum requirements that intend to bridge the gap between various groups on campus. But is this really enough if students still feel uncomfortable in their classes as a result of being called out to speak on behalf of their race?  

Stereotype threat is defined as “the experience of being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype of one’s group,” (Steele and Aronson, 1995). In other words, it is the fear by members of minority groups that they will fall suit to negative stereotypes associated with their race or ethnicity. This phenomenon results in disengaging behaviors that can be extremely harmful to a student’s ability to participate and feel comfortable in a classroom setting.  

This information stems from the PC class Urban Education, which seeks to educate students on how best to teach within an urban district, as well as how systemic racism is active within the education system.  

PC is known to rank consistently among the most segregated colleges in the U.S., and  according to the Princeton Review the College came in third in 2019. With that, it is quite clear that the various actions the College is taking to bridge the gap are failing. 

Hieu Minh Nguyen ‘20 said, “Whenever topics regarding Asian countries come up, professors look at me and expect me to say something about the matter… I feel like I was singled out in that situation, and I feel very uncomfortable.” 

A person’s heritage is not reason enough to call them out in a public setting to discuss their background. Some people are more knowledgeable about their backgrounds than others,  and therefore singling them out to answer said questions results in a very uncomfortable experience.  

If a student wishes to share their racial or ethnic experience, or their family’s experience, it is more than acceptable to do so, but no one should feel forced into it. This is especially the case given that it is more than likely students of color who are called upon to share their experience.  

Similarly, Ghiana Guzman ‘21 said, “As a Puerto Rican woman I have been stereotyped to be ‘crazy.’ So yes, in a classroom or otherwise professional setting, I very much intentionally code switch…I have had experiences in my major in which a professor specifically called on me or looked to me to talk about my culture, my experience as a Latina, or to help pronounce something in Spanish.” 

If a student feels that they have to be more conscious of what they say in a classroom in order to avoid exhibiting the stereotypes they are typically associated with, how are they going to feel comfortable enough to make valuable contributions to class discussions? Likewise, if they did not intend to speak on a topic relating to the identity they associate with, why should a professor ask them to do so?  

Solutions for this issue vary, but one of the biggest things that the school can encourage professors to do is to let those that wish to speak out on behalf of their background choose when to do so. They must refrain completely from calling on students on the basis of their race.  

The Center for Teaching Excellence provides new faculty orientations that are “designed to welcome new faculty into the ongoing campus dialogue about teaching and learning,” according to the PC website. However, the question then becomes how much emphasis is placed on the harms of concepts like stereotype threat, and with that, how often are professors refreshed on these teachings? 

Accordingly, PC should foster more conversations on race in which an emphasis is placed on learning what is considered stereotyping and how the concept of stereotype threat plays a role in modern day society. The College can achieve this feat by re-analyzing the diversity proficiency in terms of which courses fulfill the core.  

According to PC’s page on the diversity proficiency, “Students will demonstrate proficiency in diversity, understood as either cross-cultural or involving diversity within the American context through a designated course as approved by the Core Curriculum Committee.” With that, how does a course such as the political science department’s Urban Politics, which delves deep into the racial discrepancies in U.S. cities, not cover such a requirement?  

It is clearly evident that the College has a long way to go in bettering its record on racial relations, but given that clarity, this should be a top priority for the administration and professors to work through. What’s next, PC?