Providence College Students Await President’s Plan to Combat Racism

By Sheryl Estrada

Photo of via Twitter.

Providence College student organizations and the Coalition Against Racism, a faculty group, hosted a discussion about racial discrimination and racism on campus Thursday,which wasafollow-up toa 13-hour sit-in last week.

More than 50 students protesting “racism and anti-Blackness” participated in a sit-in outside of the office of the president, Rev. Brian J. Shanley, on Feb. 16. They said they would remain there until the college agreed to a list of demands issued to Shanley in December “designed to create a more racially diverse, inclusive and academically excellent community.”

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Demands included cultural competency training for faculty and staff, a revision of the Development of Western Civilization curriculum tomake it more inclusive and cluster hiring of Black faculty and other faculty of color.

As some of the demands required revisions to the school’s curriculum, Shanley did not agree to the full list. He agreed to make progress on the issues and report back to students and faculty with a thorough plan by March 7 at 4 p.m.

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“We will see within 20 days, we will see what he comes up with,” senior Mary-Murphy Walsh, one of the sit-in’s organizers, said last week.

Many students and faculty are continuing to use thehashtag#PCBreaktheSilence, created in November, to chronicle events and as a countdown to Shanley’s proposed plan.

Julia Jordan-Zachery, professor and director of the Black Studies Program at Providence College, tweeted the following on Monday:

About 175 people attended the discussion held at the student union Thursday night. According to The Providence Journal, Jordan-Zachery said in her eight years at the college, she has been racially profiled 10 times. She also described how in many instances discrimination against people of color has been met with intimidation against those who speak about their experiences.

Anthony Rodriguez, an assistant professor of education, said one of his students had been frightened into not speaking during the forum.

“She’s scared out of her mind,” Rodriguez said.

Student Alexandra De La Zerda said a professor greatly upset her by asking: “How did you get into [Providence College]”

Eric Hirsch, a sociology professor, spoke in opposition to the curriculum, which shows preference to “dead white males” and justifies slavery, genocide and colonialism.

The Roman Catholic university in Rhode Island has approximately 3,969 undergraduate students, according to College Scorecard. The student body is 77 percent white, 7 percent Latino, 4 percent Black, 1 percent Asian and less than 1 percent American Indian.

On Jan. 31, a group of five female students of color walked to a nearby off-campus residence and were denied entrance. The incident was reported to both the Providence Police Department and the PC Office of Campus Safety and Security, and there is an ongoing investigation.

In an email to the faculty, staff and students, Shanley wrote, “The trustees and I want to make it abundantly clear that racism, in any form, will not be tolerated at Providence College.”

The college’s NAACP chapter stated, “We stand in solidarity with these five women of color, and with all other persons that have been targeted, and or discriminated against.”

Different programs and departments, including the Women’s Studies program, have also expressed their support.

In November, Providence College students rallied in solidarity with University of Missouri students protesting. Approximately 75 to 100 students staged a “break the silence” protest demanding Shanley address racism on campus.

The Coalition Against Racism held a press conference in May, followed by a march, to protest ongoing racial profiling by campus security.

“Some try to discredit our experiences with claims such as ‘It must be how they are dressed,”saidJordan-Zachary “and I always want to say, ‘I survived 18 years as a Black female academic. I think I know how to dress.'”

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