A Thank You to The Cowl
by Editor-in-Chief Katie Puzycki ’17 and Associate Editor-in-Chief Jacquelyn Kelley ’17
With our penultimate Cowl underway, it is time for us to start our long list of goodbyes. Fortunately, we will have more time to prepare these for our Swan Songs in next week’s Commencement issue, but for now, we’d like to begin by saying “Thank You” to our readers for supporting our work each week.
The experience of being Editors-in-Chief has been rewarding to say the least. There is something very special in coming together each week to participate in this tradition, and to lead The Cowl, as so many have before us, has been an incredible honor.
Of course, we would not have come this far without our staff standing with us each week; they have made our work as editors all the more enjoyable. From our standup comedians at the copy editors’ table to our late night horoscope readings in The Cowl office, the people behind the publication have inspired us all year.
Two weeks ago we had the other honor of announcing our new Editors-in-Chief to the rest of our staff: Marla Gagne ’18 and Paige Calabrese ’18.This moment was as exciting for us as it was for them. We both know that The Cowl will be in good hands next year, and that they will continue to be dedicated leaders for our publication.
There will never be enough words to describe quite exactly what this experience has meant for us, so we leave you on this note: our goodbye to our work on The Cowl is not an end—as hard as it might be for us to go—because as cliché as it might sound, it is another beginning as our next Editors-in-Chief build upon The Cowl’s legacy.
Giving up the gavel,
Katie & Jackie
99 Reasons to Love Roy Peter Clark: Providence College Names Alumnus as Commencement Speaker
by Katie Puzycki ’17 and Jacquelyn Kelley ’17
Editor-in-Chief and Associate Editor-in-Chief
You might define native New Yorker Roy Peter Clark as the writing coach of the country. With his expansive background and knowledge in the field, there would be no doubt as to why. Talking to him, you might also find something more, like that he knows how to tell a good story.
Clark, who was born on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1948, was raised on Long Island by his second generation Italian-Jewish immigrant family. Today, Clark’s name is well-recognized in both the literary and journalistic worlds. A product of Depression-era parents, Clark’s roots encouraged him in all aspects of life.
In 1970, he graduated from Providence College with a B.A. in English—four years later, his younger brother Vincent Clark followed in his footsteps by attending the College, and graduated in 1974. During his time at PC, Clark was a member of recognizable campus publications, including positions as editor of The Alembic, and as managing editor and writer for The Cowl.
The role didn’t come naturally at first though. Clark admits, “I was the worst editor in the history of The Cowl. I didn’t do any of the hard work [there]. I was not the managing editor. I mean, that was the title, but I was a columnist and editorial writer.” Not what you might expect from the man who now has a more than impressive record as an editor and journalist.
Clark has a lot more to credit PC for than just experience in his field of work. It is also the place where he met his wife, Karen, when she was working as a secretary in the alumni office in Harkins Hall. Little did Clark know that by being a student worker there, he would meet the love of his life. They married in the Guzman Chapel a year after he graduated, and Dr. Raymond Sickinger—now a professor of history at the College—sang at both his wedding and when they renewed their vows 20 years later, a testament to just some of the bonds that he made as a student here.
Clark did not always have this attachment to Providence College, though. “If I were to rewrite my résumé, one of the things that I think is interesting to me, something that I’ve just realized looking back, is that I never wound up being accepted either in my academic life, or work, to the place that I wanted to go, but I always wound up being at the place I needed to be. When I think about how different my life would have been if I had gotten accepted to Princeton, it’s kind of scary,” Clark stated.
We often hear of Providence as students, but we do not always consider the weight of the word, which is something that Clark has given more thought to, especially now. He is a firm believer that, “If you believe in Providence not just as the name of a school or place, but as a sort of metaphysical idea, then you can see how often God ‘writes straight with crooked lines.’”
More than 40 years after receiving his undergraduate degree, Clark has come full-circle, returning in May as the speaker of the 99th Commencement Exercises for the College.
When asked about his reaction to being named as this year’s speaker, Clark said, “When the call came, the news was broken to me that they wanted to give me an honorary degree and I said, ‘Wow. That’s so great.’ And then they said, ‘And we want you to be the commencement speaker.’ That was just like…I don’t know. I’ve never taken LSD, but it felt like some sort of flashback.” Clark believes that this opportunity is, in fact, a “greater honor than a Pulitzer Prize.”
It seems like the natural choice to have chosen Clark to return as commencement speaker. As the College closes a year-long celebration of 100 years, there is no one more apt to speak to the Class of 2017 than a Providence College alumnus, and in the current political atomosphere, no one more apt than a journalist. Clark disclosed that this is a “Tumultuous political moment in history, and I think it’s important to touch on that without dwelling on it. It’ll be up to me how to figure out how to do that. I’m still working that through.”
Regardless of any obstacles Clark still faces in writing his commencement address, he is determined to make it both memorable and fun, like playing music throughout his speech, or rapping some lyrics from the musical Hamilton—a unique inclusion that marks many of Clark’s talks.
“A commencement should be a celebration and not a seminar, a reward for all your hard work. I played in a rock band at PC. I want to send the Class of 2017 dancing out of the Dunk into a life filled with hope and promise,” concluded Clark. Could you ask for a better start to post-grad life?
PC: Let’s Clean Up Our Act
by Jacquelyn Kelley ’17
When will we learn?
It was only two years ago that a former Editor-in-Chief of The Cowl, Mason Sciotti ’15, wrote a column condemning aggressive and destructive behavior at off-campus parties. At the time, he was addressing the serious injury of Providence Police Officer Michael Clary, who was struck in the head by a 1.5L vodka bottle while Providence College students celebrated our hockey team’s first National Championship win. Clary’s injury required 20 stitches.
And here I am, only two years later, composing a column that addresses the same topic, because apparently we did not learn our lesson the first time. According to Jack Leyden’s Safety Advisory, another bottle was thrown “in the direction of the police” over the weekend, this time striking a PC student who also required medical attention.
Yet PC students question the local media’s negative portrayal of our social activities as if we do no wrong. Carelessly throwing bottles is wrong. Overcrowding our off-campus houses with several hundred students is wrong, just as slamming the door in a police officer’s face when he or she tries to take control of the situation is wrong. Nevertheless, all of these incidents took place over the weekend, so I can’t help but think that the local media’s portrayal of PC students as rowdy and disrespectful is right. But it doesn’t have to be.
St. Patrick’s Day weekend only marked the beginning of a spring season full of celebrations. Once warmer weather settles in, students will inevitably take to the streets in beach or golf attire, but the harm we too often inflict on others is entirely avoidable. It’s possible to enjoy a nice day or commemorate a sports victory without blocking intersections, without trashing our neighborhoods, without throwing bottles, and without disrespecting the law enforcement officials who are sent to keep us safe.
All I ask is that we learn from last weekend’s mistakes with hope that there won’t be another column addressing this topic again.
An Apology to the Providence College Community
by The Cowl‘s Editorial Board
On behalf of The Cowl’s entire staff, we extend our deepest apologies to the Providence College community for a misprint in our Feb. 16 issue. The article, “Panel Discusses Diversity and the Catholic Identity,” contained the phrase “colored people,” and we deeply regret that this derogatory and hurtful language appeared within the pages of our publication. While we can assure you that there was no malice intended by using such language, we fully understand that this phrase should not have been used. The mistake has brought to our attention an issue of ignorance—a lack of understanding of the term “colored” and its harmful connotations—not only on our own staff, but also on a much larger, societal scale. Therefore, we would like to use our error as an educational opportunity—a chance to reflect upon the history of the term “colored” and its impact, while discussing the appropriate and respectful term that should always be used instead.
For many, “colored” signifies a time in American history during which there were “colored” classrooms, “colored” drinking fountains, and “colored” waiting areas—to name only a few examples of the racial segregation our nation once enforced. That is why, since the late 1970s, racial justice advocates have instead used the term “people of color” to collectively refer to racial groups that are not white. “People of color” is the term that should have appeared in our last issue of The Cowl, and again, we deeply regret that it was not. We have discussed at great length the importance of word choice with our entire staff. In addition to the Associated Press Stylebook, we now are also consulting several other guides and resources with hope that an offensive mistake like this will not occur again.
However, we must remind you that The Cowl’s staff is constantly changing. For example, it has been brought to our attention that mistakes such as this one have occurred in The Cowl’s past, but we remind you that those mistakes were before our time. We would also ask that you remember that we are also students, with busy lives and preoccupations outside The Cowl office each week, which certainly does not help in the case of making mistakes. Although we have done our best to impart the wisdom we have gained from this mistake upon our current staff, we certainly cannot speak for those who come after us—those students who are now in the eighth grade, but who will one day take over our positions. We can hope that they will be informed, but we can also expect that they will make their own mistakes and learn from them as we have.
Finally, we remind you that there was no ill will behind the language used in our last issue, despite our recognition of the negative impact it may have had on our community. We thank you for understanding that we are students first, and that much like in the classroom, we welcome critique so as to learn and better ourselves.
Therefore, all we can ask is that you accept our sincerest apologies while extending your own understanding and forgiveness.
Every Voice Deserves To Be Heard
by Jacquelyn Kelley ’17
“She persisted,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)—and she had every right to persist.
On Feb. 7, Warren took the Senate floor to contest Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General, citing a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986. King’s letter was critical of Sessions, ultimately deeming him unfit to serve as a federal judge, the position he was nominated for at the time. Warren, therefore, found the letter relevant for current consideration as Sessions seeks a new office.
Warren read King’s words, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge,” but McConnell swiftly prevented her from reading any more.
McConnell accused Warren of violating Senate Rule 19, which prevents senators from challenging the reputations of fellow senators while debating on the floor. However, this outdated rule is seldom enforced, raising questions as to why it was invoked when Warren presented a historical document to further inform the ongoing debate about Sessions’ nomination.
McConnell defends his decision. “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” he said. Now, she is banned from contributing further to the debate. To put it simply, she has been shushed.
There is perhaps nothing more frustrating, especially at this moment in our country’s history, than having our voices go unheard. No matter our political affiliations, it is deeply disappointing when people refuse to listen to us. Ignoring the thoughts and opinions presented by others is detrimental to the health of our society and democracy.
Conflicts cannot be mediated successfully unless both parties involved feel as if they have been heard. If one refuses to listen to the other, there will be no progress toward a resolution. It is therefore incredibly important when engaging in any kind of dispute, but especially when participating in political debates, to actively listen to the opposition.
That is exactly what American citizens must do in their own daily lives if they are ever going to overcome the divisions among their family members, friends, and co-workers who have opposing political views. We must listen to one another. No matter how much we may disagree with one another, we must hear each other out. We each have a right to be heard, just as Warren does.
Standing Up: A Lesson From History
by Jacquelyn Kelley ’17
My public and community service course, “The City & Its Cultures,” recently hosted Nancy Hood and Barry Brown, two Rhode Island activists who use their storytelling skills and musical talents to convey America’s history of injustice. Although they touched upon several movements in America, they primarily focused on the McCarthy era and Hood’s upbringing in a communist family.
Hood’s father served as the Chairperson of the Communist Party in their home state of Massachusetts, and later represented all of New England. As Senator Joseph McCarthy worked diligently to prosecute any Americans with a trace of allegiance to the Communist party, the FBI quickly targeted Hood’s father. She recalls agents stalking her family’s every move, receiving threatening phone calls from neighbors, and being called a “dirty commie” by her classmates at school.
Hood’s personal story exposed the discrimination and hatred she and her family faced due to their values and beliefs. As somebody without much background in the McCarthy era, I learned a lot from her story but was also moved by how relevant her hardships are today. Hood was quick to connect the prejudice she experienced with the injustice that abounds in America today, especially in light of our recent election and the inauguration of a leader who promotes hate.
The final song Hood performed was a rendition of “First They Came For,” a piece with constantly evolving lyrics as it is often re-worked to reflect upon current events. To give a brief synopsis, the song calls attention to the problem of inaction and underscores that when we fail to stand up for those who face injustice, there will be nobody left to stand up for us when we become the subjects of persecution.
She remained seated while singing most of the song, but there was a poignant moment toward the end in which she physically stood up from her seat, demonstrating that she will stand up for those who face hatred. As Hood sang the lyrics, “I hope you will stand with me,” I felt the urge to stand up myself, to demonstrate that I would stand with her and whoever else may need me, in the face of hatred, but I didn’t budge.
I looked around the room and did not see anybody else rise from their chairs, so I didn’t either. I succumbed to the pressure of the room and failed to act in that moment, but why? Because I was too shy? Too nervous? When the song came to an end, we discussed, as a group, the danger of inaction. Nothing will be accomplished if we allow our fears to control us the way we just had during that song, when we should have stood up for what was right.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the moment I didn’t stand up or last Saturday when I chose to do homework instead of participate in the Women’s March in Providence. I’m disappointed in myself for not being more proactive. I’m disappointed that I didn’t look past my own feelings or needs to fight for those of others. So, at this point, I’m feeling incredibly grateful for Hood and Brown’s visit because it was a much needed wake-up call for me to take a stand against the hatred and inequality our new administration perpetuates.