by Margaret Mahoney ’21
Student Congress Representative
Student Congress welcomed Father Kenneth Sicard, O.P., president of Providence College, to our weekly meeting on Feb. 9. After giving an overview of his current priorities as president, Fr. Sicard answered questions from members of the Student Congress.
When asked about his priorities for the spring semester, Fr. Sicard said he is focused on handling COVID-19-related challenges and diversity initiatives. Fr. Sicard stated that the College is continually working to keep students safe and to make experiences in isolation and quarantine as comfortable as possible. He also said that PC will be directing more funding towards diversity initiatives and will be conducting a cluster hire in the Black studies department.
When asked about the mental health of students in isolation and quarantine, Fr. Sicard said that there will be counselors available to them. Furthermore, he said that the College is working to make quarantine comfortable by providing Dunkin’ Donuts and specialty meals to the students.
He also discussed his “Friarside Chats” program, wherein students have the opportunity to speak with him in person about their experiences at PC. At recent Friarside Chats, topics such as COVID-19 protocols; diversity, equity, and inclusion questions; mental health concerns; and commencement in the spring have come up in conversation. Fr. Sicard encourages students to attend these conversations in the upcoming semester.
Thank you Fr. Sicard for taking the time to attend our meeting and speak with us.
Sicard Holds Conversation on State of Campus: Racism and Election Among Hot Topics
by Hannah Langley ’21
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.
Addressing Racism and COVID-19 Concerns: Fr. Sicard Holds Virtual Town Hall Webinar
by Hannah Langley ’21
Over this past month, the Providence College community has had to adapt to many different issues and address actions that must be taken in order to create change. In an effort to do this, College President Father Kenneth Sicard, O.P., held a virtual town hall meeting open to all students on Oct. 5 to voice their questions and concerns related to racial injustice and COVID-19 procedures on PC’s campus.
While Fr. Sicard called the meeting, many members of PC’s administration and faculty were also present on the call to respond to questions when necessary. Phionna Cayola-Claude ’18 moderated the meeting, as well, asking questions live over Zoom for Fr. Sicard and others to answer.
To begin the meeting, Cayola-Claude asked questions that came from students regarding the issue of racism and discrimination, wherever it may exist in the PC community. These questions spanned from issues in diversity within PC’s Development of Western Civilization (DWC) program, to racial profiling and reporting, to how PC intends to hold students, faculty, and staff accountable for acts of discrimination and racism.
The very first question asked was how Catholic social teaching could be at the forefront of combating racism.
A later, similar question asked how members of the LGBTQIA+ community could be protected under Church teaching. In response to these questions, Father James Cuddy, O.P., vice president for Mission and Ministry, stated that the Church does not believe in discrimination, saying, “Every person without exception and without qualification is made in God’s image and likeness.”
He argued that the Church’s teaching on marriage “in no way precludes the necessity of treating one another well” and the treatment of every person as an individual of the PC community must come first.
Several questions were posed on the subject of racial profiling and the procedures surrounding how one should report incidents of racism, and how to feel safe doing so. Fr. Sicard addressed this question by explaining the new Title VI procedure students, faculty, and staff should use, which allows for anyone to file a report by using a link.
He addressed the fact that reporting such incidents should not be up to just students, and higher levels of administration should recognize racial bias and discrimination when they see it, but he asks that students use the system so that incidents will not go unheard.
Jacqueline Peterson, special advisor to the President for the Institutional Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (IDEI) department, addressed Title VI reporting as well, discussing how the system for filing a report has recently been remodeled. She hopes that this new software will make tracking and monitoring incidents more effective, time efficient, and will improve record keeping. These reports are then reviewed by several people, including Quincy Bevely, assistant vice president of IDEI, and Kathleen Alvino, associate vice president of human resources. There are then several different steps that may be taken following the initial report, which can be seen in detail on the IDEI page on the PC website.
Questions were also asked about how the College is working towards eliminating unconscious bias incidents. Peterson addressed this, saying, “the more we can educate the community around unconscious bias, the more we will be able to change the [College’s] culture.”
To work towards this goal, the IDEI department created the Advocated for a Beloved Community (ABC) group earlier this year. This group consists of students, faculty, and staff who have been through professional training to learn more about social justice and to help educate people throughout the campus community to prevent unconscious bias.
In regards to reforms around the Development of Western Civilization (DWC) program, Sean Reid, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, said that he recognized the “narrow scope” of the program when he joined the PC community this year.
He said that an implementation plan for reform is currently in the works in the hopes of broadening the program’s scope and making it a more holistic program.
That being said, the College released a response to a question about whether or not DWC should be required, and the College stands by its stance that the program is a “foundational element of the core curriculum.”
The statement did include, however, that there should be a more critical eye turned inward on the negative impacts of the ‘triumph of western civilization’ such as colonialism, genocide, forced conversion, exploitation, religious wars, etc.
While more was said on the College’s response to racism, the meeting also addressed questions and concerns surrounding the College and COVID-19. Although directives from the College have changed over time, one thing that has remained consistent is the College’s decision to re-open beginning Oct. 12 for both on-campus and off-campus students with weekly tests administered based on alphabetical order.
When asked about how another outbreak can be prevented, especially as colder months approach, Fr. Sicard and Dr. Ann Manchester-Molak, executive vice president of the College, stressed the importance of students remaining in their pods, or groups of people with whom they directly live.
Dean Steven Sears, associate vice president for student affairs, also noted that while students are encouraged to remain in their pods, they should get out around campus and take advantage of the buildings on campus that are open.
John Sweeney, senior vice president of finance and business, also noted that the outbreak that began primarily off-campus did not spread to the larger Providence community, which was a major concern for many. He also noted that of the over 200 cases, those students who were in quarantine or isolation from the very beginning are far past their required 14-day isolation period.
In regards to communication about repercussions and what is to come, especially for off-campus students, Sears mentioned a mandatory Zoom session regarding that on Wednesday, Oct. 7. This Zoom session was also hosted in a town hall format, and the main purpose was to advise off-campus students to remain in their respective homes and pods or face consequences from PC Public Safety, Providence police, or the 02908 Club. Sears said that any students caught on video or in photos will be reported and called, and those breaking the rules will be held accountable.
Before the town hall meeting even began, many students boycotted the event due to the webinar format, which did not allow for live questions to be seen, creating a fear of censorship. The College responded that the platform was meant to be more accommodating, as it allowed for more people to attend and removed the potential for Zoom-bombing.
Fr. Sicard also made sure not to censor any question by releasing a written statement afterwards with responses to all questions asked during the meeting.
While no one is certain of what the future will hold, Sicard hopes that these types of town hall meetings will allow for continued open discussion to create a more beloved community. Fr. Sicard and PC administration want students to share their thoughts, experiences, and feelings so that the College community can learn and progress in the right direction.
Passing the Torch: Rev. Kenneth Sicard Named New President of Providence College
by Hannah Langley ’21
In 1919, Providence College opened its doors under the leadership and guidance of its first president, Reverend Dennis Albert Casey, O.P. Since then, the College has grown tremendously under the work and presidency of 11 other Friars, including its current president, Father Brian J. Shanley, O.P.
As of Friday, October 4, it was announced that Reverend Kenneth Sicard, O.P., has been added to this list of prestigious Friars, making him the 13th elected president of the College.
The selection process was led by a formal presidential selection committee, headed by chairman Robert Clark ’80. This selection committee, Clark said, consisted of a wide range of people, in order to “represent all different aspects of the PC community.” After a process which lasted several weeks, a committee was brought together that was made up of six members from the Board of Trustees, one representative from the alumni association, student Keagan MacKrell ’20, two faculty members, and two staff members, one of which was a Dominican.
MacKrell, the only student on the committee, talked about her experience as being part of this process, saying, “As captain of the cheerleading team, a big part of my role is to not only represent my team in a collegiate light, but to support and represent Providence College and their overall mission. Providence College is also a place that I hold very close to my heart, and I am honored to have been selected to take part in the next big step of PC’s history. I am truly so thankful to have been a part of this process.”
The selection committee began by putting together a formalized job description and process for choosing the next president, Clark stated. The only limitation they had in setting parameters, Clark mentioned, was that the president needed to be a Friar and have a doctorate.
On Sept. 12, the committee came together to interview each of the four applicants for the job individually, spending about two hours with each person. In the end, Fr. Sicard and Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P., were the final candidates. From there, the two Friars were then interviewed by cabinet administrators, a group of faculty that serve on the Shared Governance Committee, representatives from Student Congress, and Christopher Reilly ’84, chair of the Board of Trustees. There were also extensive background and reference checks led by the search firm Witt/Kiefer, which was hired by the selection committee for its expertise and specialization in educational searches for colleges and universities, according to Clark.
After receiving extensive feedback, the Board of Trustees made their selection, which was then reviewed and approved by the Providence College Corporation.
Clark is satisfied and extremely pleased with the way the election process took place, saying, “The process went pretty smoothly, and hopefully everyone felt it was fair and transparent.”
Clark continued, saying he was also pleased with the selection of Fr. Sicard. “We were looking for somebody that could continue the success that [the school has] had,” Clark said. “Somebody that could really build great relationships and collaborate with faculty, alumni, staff, the Dominican community,” and he feels Fr. Sicard will be able to accomplish this during his future presidency.
As the son of a mill worker in Fall River, MA, Fr. Sicard grew up with very little, but used the resources he had to create a successful future for himself. He talked about his father, who was a hard-working man, but was never able to attend college. “My dad was the one who persuaded me to go to Providence College,” noted Sicard.
Fr. Sicard graduated from PC with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1978 and a master’s in business administration in 1984, being the first in his family to graduate with a college degree. After spending several years as an audit manager at Fleet Financial Group and the Industrial National Bank, however, Fr. Sicard decided to devote his life to the Church and entered the
Dominican order. “I always knew I wanted to enter the order,” said Fr. Sicard. “The time just wasn’t right when I got out of college.”
From there, Fr. Sicard received his bachelor’s in sacred theology and master’s in divinity from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.
After receiving his doctorate degree from and spending seven years teaching business and theology at the University of Ohio, Fr. Sicard was appointed the Dean of Residence Life at Providence College, and has been here ever since. Fr. Sicard noted his time as dean of residence life is what made him come to love the PC community, especially the students. “You get to see the students at their best and also at their worst,” Fr. Sicard said, but he has loved all of the people he worked with and being so involved in the students’ lives.
After seven years of working in residence life, Fr. Sicard was selected to become vice president of the College under Fr. Shanley in 2005. “Fr. Shanley has been a phenomenal mentor for me,” stated Fr. Sicard. “This place is the best it has ever been, and it is a real privilege to follow him and to be able to give back now.”
Along with serving as vice president, Fr. Sicard also held the position of treasurer for the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, was a member of the Economic Council of the Dominican Order, oversaw various departments and institutions at PC, stepped in as acting president during Fr. Shanley’s sabbatical in 2018, and led several different committees, including the Strategic Planning Committee in charge of creating and implementing the PC 200 plan.
The PC 200 plan is one of the initiatives Fr. Sicard is most excited about implementing during his presidency. Sicard hopes that the PC 200 plan will not only work towards diversity, inclusion, and equity, but also in enhancing the student experience at PC, both in academics and extra-curriculars. “I know both are important to PC students,” said Fr. Sicard, “so I want to focus on both aspects equally.”
Being involved in student and faculty life is one of the goals Fr. Sicard has set out for himself during his presidency. Among other things, he hopes to create both a faculty and student advisory board, as well as to attend student club and organization meetings at least once a semester.
Fr. Sicard also hopes to continue nationwide recruitment and creating the best possible academic program in order to create more of a name for the College. “We want PC to be a nationally recognized school,” stated Fr. Sicard, and he is hoping to accomplish this during his time as president.
Fr. Sicard could not have expressed more gratitude for the opportunity he has been given and for the family he has made at PC. “The students, faculty, staff, and administration are all amazing,” said Fr. Sicard, “and it is a real blessing to be at a college like this. God is good.”