The Best Four Years of Your Life: Going Out, Staying In, and All the In-betweens
Most of us have a particular idea that comes to mind when asked to describe Providence College’s culture. I don’t think I’d be wrong to assume we all tend to think of Lily Pulitzer dresses, white sneakers, and seltzer cans littered across Eaton St. I think a lot of incoming freshmen look forward to the party scene here, and that’s great for them, but I’ve noticed that PC in particular, compared to other campuses (though maybe I’m biased), has a tendency to feel exclusive.
The weekend can seem daunting. You might feel pressured to dress a certain way, post on Instagram to show you’re being social, and check in with everyone you know to find out who’s going where. I felt like an outcast freshman year when I walked downstairs from my third-floor Ray dorm to the dining hall in my pajamas and slippers on a Friday night, and I thought of myself as someone who doesn’t care what other people think. Even if you’re that type of person, too, you might still experience the effects of feeling alone.
There’s nothing wrong with ordering take-out and having a movie night, whether you do it once in a while or every Saturday. There’s nothing wrong with utilizing the quiet, empty Great Room to get some work done or FaceTime your family (especially when the Christmas trees get put up and the fireplaces are lit). There’s nothing wrong with saying no—it doesn’t make you a loser, it doesn’t make you uncool.
A lot of us face the pressure from parents, too, who tell us college is supposed to be the best four years of our lives, and we better make the most of it (or else). I think a lot of us interpret this message to mean we have to always be going, giving one hundred percent to our social activity, never stopping to rest, to think about our physical or mental health, or to experience the less active parts of our campus community.
Did you know PC has a pollinator garden? I didn’t know until the end of my junior year; it’s behind Albertus Magnus. Have you ever stopped to watch the monarch butterflies that have made their home between Ryan and the art building? Have you checked out the gallery in Smith?
I have witnessed many of my fellow seniors stressing about how to make the most of their final year at PC. I worry that some will spend more time stressing about how to do that than they spend doing things they enjoy. I feel grateful that I have found my niche—I spend most of my weekends reading and editing the articles you see in these pages, and when I have time to spare, I like to take walks and play board games. I don’t think either of those things have any more or less inherent value than getting blackout drunk at an off-campus party (except maybe when considering the health side effects). The main point I’m trying to prove is not that there’s one right way to have fun, but that there isn’t, and if you’re feeling pressure to go out when all you want to do is stay in, then make your college years the best four years of your life by doing what is most enjoyable for you.
Cheating Scandal Sends the Chess World Into Chaos
by Sarah McLaughlin ’23
Five-time chess World Champion (and widely regarded as the G.O.A.T.), Magnus Carlsen of Norway, already rocked the chess world earlier this summer when he announced that he would not be competing in the next World Championship against challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi. Now Carlsen is caught up in yet another controversy. This time, the issue revolves around cheating.
On Sept. 5, Carlsen announced on Twitter that he had withdrawn from the Sinquefield Cup, an annual, invite-only tournament hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club. This announcement came after he was defeated by 19-year-old Hans Niemann of San Francisco in Round Three with the black pieces (seen as a more brutal defeat, as the player with the white pieces holds an inherent advantage due to playing the first move). This marked the end of a 53-unbeaten game streak for Carlsen, and many commentators suggested it was one of his worst defeats in recent history. Niemann only earned the Grandmaster title in January 2021 and is considered a rising star.
In his tweet, Carlsen simply wrote that he was withdrawing from the tournament and hoped to return in the future. He also included a video of Portuguese football manager José Mourinho saying, “If I speak, I am in big trouble,” implying he was asked not to speak about why he withdrew. This led fans and commentators to assume that Carlsen suspected Niemann of cheating.
“The chess speaks for itself,” Niemann said in his post-game interview. This line reached meme status among chess fans and a wider audience due to the controversy that ensued.
U.S. Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura spoke on his Twitch channel about the drama, and he raised concerns about Niemann cheating in online matches in the past. Nakamura faced major backlash and was even threatened with legal action for these claims. On Sept. 7, however, Niemann spoke in a post-game interview, and he admitted to cheating online.
“I was just a child,” he said. “I have never, ever in my life cheated in an over-the-board game. I am proud of myself that I learned from my mistake.”
Niemann also stated that he had been permanently banned from chess.com, the largest site for online chess. This is not surprising considering their Terms of Service explicitly bans any form of cheating.
Cheating is easy for online chess—it simply involves opening another tab and putting moves into a chess engine—but how does it occur over the board? Strict security measures at tournaments prevent players from using cell phones and other electronic devices, as well as communicating with coaches and other players.
The game was screened by one of the world’s top chess detectives, Kenneth Regan, whose findings suggested nothing suspicious occurred. Many who analyzed the game argued that Niemann played moves deemed perfect by chess engines that would have been nearly impossible to be spotted by the human eye. However, the mind of a top-level chess player is difficult for others to understand, which is why many fans trust Carlsen. As Nakamura stated in his Sept. 19 YouTube video, “[Carlsen] is the foremost authority on chess without a doubt at the moment, so nobody really knows exactly what is going on.”
However, chess fans across the Internet began to speculate on all the possible ways in which Niemann could have cheated. Some suggested he may have utilized an electronic device placed somewhere on or inside his body, relying on vibrating signals as cues for which move to play. Even Elon Musk participated in this discussion, and it caught the attention of many online celebrities. People as far removed from chess as Steven Colbert and Trevor Noah joked on TV about the insinuations. Others dismissed such theories as impossible and outlandish, and some proposed the idea that he instead was tipped off to Carlsen’s preparation and strategy before the match from a mole on Carlsen’s coaching team. However, chess YouTube star and International Master Levy Rozman (GothamChess) called this theory “absolute nonsense.”
On Sept. 19, Carlsen and Niemann were set to face off in an online tournament hosted by Chess24, which was broadcast live. Carlsen resigned after two moves and switched off his camera. Many commentators and fans view this as a statement by Carlsen that he still believes Niemann is guilty.
On Monday, Carlsen finally made a written statement: “I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted.” He added that he “strongly considered withdrawing” before the Sinquefield Cup began due to concerns about Niemann.
The problem is that there is no way to know the truth. There is no way to confirm Niemann cheated during the Sinquefield Cup other than a verbal admission of guilt. There is also no way to prove his innocence.
“How do we detect cheating?” Rozman asked in his Sept. 19 video, “The same way as performance enhancing drugs—that’s the best analogy I can give you. If you do not see somebody inject themselves with a substance, what is the only way you can test for it? Physique, or taking blood or urine, and then comparing that medical data to a comfortable sample size. Well, in chess, we have various computer algorithms that track player performance, so you know time that they spend on a move, decision making at critical junctures, and how much it deviates from the engine’s balance…The more off the charts you are, the higher the suspicions are. So that is what cheating is in the world of chess, just in case you’re confused [about] what on earth is going on in the chess world.”
Reach Out to Everyone, Not Just Those Who Seem Like They Need It: Taking Campus Mental Health Into Our Own Hands
by Sarah McLaughlin ’23
Even though talking about emotions comes more naturally to some people than others, it is never easy. For many, the thought of voicing a simple sentence like “I’m not doing okay” or “I think I need help” nauseates us. Sometimes you might not even be sure of what scares you. Other times, the fear is specific and ever-present in the front of your mind.
It is so easy to offer advice like “talk to your friends,” “talk to someone you trust,” “reach out for help when you need it.” I think those messages are good and vital ones. They also present commands that involve action on the part of the person in need of help, and taking such action is often an insurmountable challenge for those struggling with anxiety or depression. Not only does it necessitate an ability to speak for oneself, but it also implies that everyone has friends or someone to trust. Sometimes a lack of one or all of these things is one of the reasons behind someone’s suffering.
To do better as a campus and a community in regard to mental health, I believe that every single one of us has an obligation to be the friend, to be the person someone can trust. I am not just talking about your roommates, although that is a good place to start. Check in on them, especially if it seems like they are having an off day. But also when it seems like they are having a good day or an average day. We are all dealing with new obligations, being away from family, and adapting or re-adapting to an environment that poses an incredible amount of opportunities for education and excitement, but can also be overwhelming.
Try inviting someone who lives in a single in your dorm to get dinner. Seek out the person sitting by herself at your club’s meeting. Start a conversation with the person who sits next to you in class who is usually on their phone.
Of course, these are commands, too. And they might be just as daunting to follow. But they could be the difference between someone having a bad day and a good day, which could be the difference between a bad week and a good week, or a bad semester and a good semester.
The upperclassmen who took the time to speak to me when I was a freshman are people I still remember and I wonder sometimes if they know just how much of a difference they made. I have always been a socially anxious person, and I was unprepared for how wildly social our campus can be, to the point where I would find myself locked in my room or a bathroom stall just to avoid the sensory overload and the thought of knowing no one who would understand it. The people I have met who have given me a space to vent about my fears and concerns and even just express my interests have been invaluable to my college experience.
We all meet so many new people at the beginning of each year—even us seniors. We all search for people to latch onto in our new classes, new clubs, new residence halls, and new jobs. It is easy to say, “Don’t be afraid to talk to someone new,” but most of us probably are afraid, and there is not much we can do to quell that fear.
Perhaps just knowing it is something a large number of us experience simultaneously will make us feel a little more together and a little less alone. Let us try not to be afraid of being afraid together, and let us be attentive observers and listeners and askers of questions. We already do a lot of talking. Let’s use that strength to build a more communicative campus.
PC Ranks No. 1 in Regional Universities North
According to newly published statistics by US News & World Report, Providence College has ranked No. 1 out of 181 in Regional Universities North, which encompasses New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware. PC is followed by Bentley University and our neighbor across I-95, Rhode Island School of Design.
Here’s how PC has performed in other ranking categories:
No. 11 in Best Value – Regional Universities North
No. 15 in Most Innovative Schools – Regional Universities North
No. 2 in Undergraduate Teaching – Regional Universities North
No. 144 in Best Undergraduate Business – National
US News & World Report assesses 1,500 U.S. bachelor’s degree-granting institutions, using 17 measures of academic quality, including graduation and retention rates, average first-year student retention rate, social mobility, faculty compensation, student-faculty ratio, and more.
Owning Up to Our Capabilities: Starting the Academic Year with a Confident Mindset
“I have no idea what I’m doing.”
How many times have you found yourself using those words? Heard friends say them? How often have you really meant it? How many times have you proceeded to do the thing anyway?
There’s an epidemic of smart, capable people—especially young people, especially introverts, especially young women—downplaying their talents and abilities. I can’t count the amount of times a classmate has turned to me and said, “I have no idea what I’m doing with this assignment,” and I’ve replied with, “Yeah, same,” even when my thoughts have already been churning, and it makes me wonder whether theirs were, too. I like to think I’m pretty confident in my own writing ability (and it’s something I enjoy doing), and yet I find myself more often expressing exactly the opposite. Take finals week as an example: tally the amount of times you’ve heard “I’m going to fail” versus “I’m going to do really well.” Statistically, most of us here at Providence College, an institution which boasts nearly a 90% graduation rate, aren’t failing. Why do we like to pretend we are?
Gen Z is criticized relentlessly for being image-obsessed. I agree that this also presents itself as a widespread issue, particularly on social media, where flexing your new car or five thousand-dollar vacation with a filtered photoshoot has become the norm. Not only does that foster envy and self-esteem issues, but it also leaves little room for expression of what’s really worth “flexing.” In Aristotle’s words, regarding self-expression, honesty is a virtue, whereas excess humility is a vice.
Those of us who’ve recently been through job interviews or created LinkedIn accounts realize the difficulty in answering the question: What are your greatest attributes? I think it’s time we stop being afraid, when appropriate, to voice them.
Maybe it’s social awkwardness we’re trying to avoid. Maybe we worry that saying, “I’m really proud of the thesis I’ve composed” will come across as conceited. But I don’t think we need to belittle ourselves in order to get along. Human connection and friendships are more often products of mutual participation and enjoyment in activities than mutual self-degradation. Owning up to our capabilities can also help foster an environment of positivity and inspire confidence in others—if even just a few people start believing in themselves, the whole group may follow.
As a senior, and as your Editor-in-Chief this year, that is my goal.
Inside the New Student Success Center: A Place for Conversations
by Sarah McLaughlin ’23
Many places on campus have experienced a facelift over the summer, and the second floor of the Phillips Memorial Library isn’t excluded. The space is home to the new Student Success Center, which includes academic advising, academic support, accessibility services, the Multicultural Student Success Program, and the Writing Center. Bryan Marinelli, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Academic Student Success, spoke about the merging of these services into one physical space.
“Now you can simply walk a student who needs a certain type of support across the hall,” he said, describing how staff would previously have to point students to other buildings. “We’re seeing the benefits of it already.”
One side of the center will be the new hub for academic advising, housing professional advisors for first- and second-year students in certain disciplines, such as psychology and biology, advisors for undeclared freshmen and sophomores, and advising support for transfer students. In addition, students who need general information or advice regarding degree planning, registration, add/drop, pass/fail, withdrawal from classes, or leaves of absence can find it here. These advisors can also connect students with study abroad and internship opportunities. “Construction may not be finished,” Bryan said. “But we are fully operational, and if all goes as planned, the place will look a lot different in the next several months. It really is going to be beautiful.”
Besides one-on-one advising, the center also conducts workshops on topics like time management, reading for DWC, and test-taking. The Multicultural Student Success Program, directed by Adebimpre Dare, provides programming to help ensure the academic, cultural, social, and emotional well-being of students. In general, the staff aim for the center to have a welcoming, “communal feel.”
Bryan noted how certain departments have heavier advising loads than others. This makes it challenging for faculty in those departments to spend quality time with their advisees. The hope is that moving some advising to the Student Success Center will not only relieve the pressure on faculty but also create more time for relationship-building between students and faculty-advisors. The center itself aims to provide “more holistic advising,” including check-ins for freshmen within a few weeks of starting their first semester and at midterms. “It’s not as if the advising was bad at the college,” Bryan said. “In fact, it was already quite good. We just knew it could be even better.”
Bryan also emphasized how he wants the entire Student Success Center to be focused on growth through open dialogue, not admonition. “This is a place where we have conversations,” he said, “not where we simply tell students what to do or how to do it.”
Regardless of educational background, many students face anxiety about asking for academic support, accommodations, or advice about fitting in on a college campus. However, the staff at the Student Success Center believe that it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.
“Don’t be afraid to take that first step,” Bryan said. “So many students are. And some don’t find their way to us until it’s too late.”
Even students who don’t have documented learning disabilities and students who earn high grades in their classes can benefit from visiting the center. It is not uncommon for 60 percent or more of first-year students to utilize academic support services. “There’s something here for everyone,” Bryan said. “You don’t have to be lost. You can just come in and talk with someone about a paper topic, or a course concept, or an academic challenge that you are facing, or an interest that you would like to pursue. The people who work here are good listeners, and they are really good at helping students arrive at their own answers.”
Though we are only a few weeks into the semester, Bryan believes the changes are already paying dividends. Moving forward, the Student Success Center’s aim is to create more proactive advising and academic support programs for students, as well as more advising resources and workshops for faculty.
“This is a welcoming, open place with a tremendous staff,” Bryan said. The center hopes to see students of all ages and abilities taking advantage of these new resources and the talented staff now available to them.
Sarah McLaughlin ’23
On the couch, we talked about everything and nothing. A number of things I’d remember, and a number of things I already forget. The movie watched and other movies, the songs we heard and other music, the things we liked about our grandparents and the things we hated, how many of them were still alive, how many memories we had of them taking care of us in our childhoods, the earliest things we could remember, the things we tended to forget, the names and faces from our teenage years we already couldn’t place, what we thought the trajectory of the world might be, what our city might look like in five years, ten years, twenty, whether or not we’d ever want to go to space.
It amazed me how mundane conversations could be, and how easily they could become captivating. It scared me, too, how even in those mundane moments, my attention was captivated by the most unimaginative things, like the curve of her eyebrows, or the way she pronounced piano, or how the shadow above her collarbone changed shape as she shifted.
This was infatuation, I realized, in the hours I spent with her there. It wasn’t seeing someone as larger-than-life, as completely flawless, as the pinnacle of human beauty. It was noticing imperfections and being obsessed with them—not to fix them, like missing punctuation in an essay, but to notice them, understand them, commit them to memory. to see them not as flaws needing correction but as small pieces of a whole, to understand that whole as greater than the sum of its parts.
It wasn’t writing love songs and drawing hearts around their name, it was counting freckles and the ums between sentences.
Sarah McLaughlin ’23
I see it when I’m on the final set of stairs leading up to my building. It’s behind a bush, obviously intended as a hiding place, but the bush is thin and wiry with hardly any leaves, and there’s a yellow spotlight on the ground behind it, covered by a bit of mulch which likely obscured it during the day. But now it makes its presence known, and it lights up the skateboard like it’s the lead actor on a stage. Like it’s meant to be seen.
It’s plain and wooden and I guess that’s probably how skateboards usually are. It has bright orange wheels with blackened lines from use. I imagine they roll smoothly, soundlessly, especially against fresh pavement.
That’s my first thought. My second thought: I could steal it.
I’m not going to, obviously. But I could. No one is around, no one would see it. Someone just left it there. I could touch it, pick it up, take it into my building, and as long as its owner didn’t happen to be in the elevator, I’d get away scot-free.
The next morning, somebody would probably post online asking about it. They’d either be angry and cussing out whoever stole it or asking politely if anyone could keep an eye out. I wonder what type of person they are and how they’d respond. I wonder if it means a lot to them, and I wonder why they left it outside if it’s so important, and I wonder if it can’t fit in their bedroom in their apartment because they have a neat-freak roommate who doesn’t want something that touches the dirty pavement on the carpet, and I wonder why they wear a yellow beanie and a striped gray shirt that’s cuffed on the arm where they wear a bunch of thin leather bracelets and have short brown hair that sticks out of the bottom of their hat in soft spikes, because I don’t know who they are and I’m making all of this up in my head.
I pause for a second on the sidewalk and stare at it. But I don’t move any closer. I don’t touch it.
But I could steal it, and I considered it, even if I didn’t really, didn’t seriously, and as I walk away, that’s all I can think about. I think about how maybe if I had stolen it I’d keep it in my closet because not only do I not know how to skateboard, but I couldn’t just go around using a skateboard I had stolen, because what if it has some unique marking they’ll recognize, and I’ll get flagged down on my way to class and maybe beat up or at least questioned and then I’d be late. I think about how maybe I’d happen to know them without knowing it or meet them at some point in the future and then I’d invite them to hang out in my room and they’d see it and either they’d hate me or we’d end up having a moment of reflection about absurdity and fate.
Until the elevator startles me with its ding as it reaches the fifth floor—when did I get here?—I don’t think about how you would never steal a skateboard—I mean, you want to be a lawyer, for Christ’s sake—except maybe you’d think about it just like I did, and if you were having one of those nights where maybe you didn’t want to be a lawyer or you just didn’t know for sure anymore—maybe it was the seven hours of midterm cramming or maybe it was the philosophy lecture or maybe it was the red wine—maybe you would.
You’d take it and hold it ransom and maybe even post a picture of it on the message board with a smiley face or a snarky comment just to see what happens, and even if the owner was pissed off, they wouldn’t be for long because they’d come get it from you and offer you alcohol or drugs or even their yellow beanie and you’d laugh and they’d fall in love with you, and they wouldn’t even need to get it back because suddenly they’d have you instead; even if they didn’t, they’d have the thought of you, and I know all too well how that thought makes someone’s head spin and stomach churn faster than any orange wheels. Skateboarding seems like a rather solitary activity. They’d want to walk by your side, follow you as your heels click against the concrete, echoed by the expensive swish of your dress pants. They’d ask why you’re not just wearing sweats like the rest of campus, but they should know you’ve got some meeting or another, or at least you’re using one as an excuse, when in reality you just like the rush of power you feel when you strut into the classroom and get a once-over from your classmates. You want to shrug off a blazer and hang it on the back of a chair and take notes in a Moleskine with a weighted pen, the kind that you twist, not click or uncap.
Do you know the kinds of pens I like? The clicky ones. I like to click and unclick them subconsciously while I’m reading until my roommate gets annoyed and tells me to stop. I like to switch between different colors because I get bored of them, and I like the ones that come out thicker, because they never make that awful scratchy noise when they run dry.
I told you once. We were doing homework in the library, reading by dim lamp light in December. You wrote something in that grandiose scrawl of yours; you write like you don’t care how much space it takes up. Your pen ran out, and it scratched against the paper, and I didn’t just hear it from across the table but felt it; it sent a shiver through my body underneath my sweatshirt. You noticed and snorted with laughter, thinking it was from the cold. We got a dirty look from some poor kid trying to cram for finals. This was sophomore year: your hair was bleached blonde, you drank Coke instead of coffee, and you were wearing glasses instead of contacts because your eyes were irritated from strain. You thought your glasses made you look prudish (like your mother) and I tried to convince you otherwise, because glasses make everyone look better. This was sophomore year: I was taking Latin for some godforsaken reason, and if I had to conjugate one more verb I was going to defenestrate (fenestra, fenestrae, fenestrae, fenestram, fenestra) my textbook and then myself. You laughed at me because you thought I was cold, when in reality I was sweating, because there you were in your glasses, and the lamp light turned your skin shades of gold, and when I realized I was sweating I wondered if you could smell it.
The shiver was from the scratch of the pen. And when I told you so, you laughed again, even harder, and the kid probably gave us another look, but I don’t remember paying attention. You covered your mouth and closed your eyes, nearly doubling over as your shoulders trembled, but then you set your pen aside with a serene sort of smile and asked if I had a spare.
I unlock the door to my apartment and let it fall shut behind me.
A Purgatory of Trains
Sarah McLaughlin ’23
You are Plato, turned to heaven’s forms,
I am Aristotle, here on Earth.
You are Dante, looking up beyond the wall of rock,
I am Virgil, eyes upon the ground, my own consultant.
But are you really the sturdy tower, unshakeable?
What secures your soul in stringent grip? What holds mine?
You don’t make me neglect the passage of time
But make me all too cognizant.
Enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit?
Meet the Real-life Female Stars of the Chess World
The Queen’s Gambit, a Netflix mini-series adaptation of the Walter Tevis novel of the same name, carried a new wave of players into chess, players who had little to no prior experience with the game or the community surrounding it. In March 2020 alone, Chess.com, the leading online chess platform, grew from 280,000 to over 1 million daily active users. Furthermore, after The Queen’s Gambit’s main character, Beth Harmon, captivated an enormous audience, real-life female chess players have experienced rapid growth on platforms like YouTube and Twitch. Here are just a few for those interested in learning more about chess and the chess community to check out:
Anna Rudolf is a Hungarian chess player and commentator who holds the International Master and Woman Grandmaster titles. On her YouTube channel, she uploads entertainment-focused chess content consisting of commentary on popular chess figures and other YouTubers, as well as commentary on her own games. She commentates live on Twitch during professional and amateur tournaments and streams on her own channel. In one of her most popular videos, she tells the story of how she was accused of cheating at a tournament because of her lip balm. Rudolf is outspoken on the topic of sexism in the chess community. She is considered by many to have a ‘wholesome’ personality, and she has coached internet celebrities such as Pokimane in chess.
19-year-old Swedish chess player Anna Cramling holds the title Woman FIDE Master and has represented her country in the Chess Olympiad. She uploads regularly to her YouTube channel, analyzing both games of her own and those of others—including those of her parents, who are both Grandmasters. Her mother, Pia Cramling, is often featured in her videos; she was one of the first women to achieve the Grandmaster title and has been the highest ranked female player in the world on multiple occasions. She also streams frequently on Twitch.
Sisters Alexandra and Andrea Botez, ages 26 and 20, have amassed over 700,000 YouTube subscribers and 1 million Twitch followers. Alexandra holds the Woman FIDE Master title, and both sisters are known for commentating on the Chess.com Twitch channel during tournaments and coaching fellow YouTubers and streamers. They are a dynamic duo who frequently interact with other popular online creators, and their most recent endeavor involved traveling the world and live streaming over-the-board (real-life) chess in a number of different countries. The Botez sisters in particular have popularized chess as not just online education, but also as online entertainment.
For those who enjoyed watching The Queen’s Gambit and are interested in learning more about chess, these content creators can provide a fun gateway into the chess community. While they are certainly engaging and interesting for experienced players, much of their content is geared toward and accessible to beginners.