Providence College Protesters Notch Victory in Agreement

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Students who protested allegations of racism at a Catholic college have reported reaching an agreement with the school’s president, who has promised to create a more inclusive environment.

Close to 50 students at Providence College protested within the walls of the Rev. Brian Shanley’s office for 13 hours before they say he signed an agreement of commitment.  The effort was closely followed on social media through the use of the hashtag #PC-break-the-silence, which trended on Twitter for several hours.

“I, Brian J. Shanley, commit myself to continuous action working with the students, faculty, and staff of Providence College to create an environment that is more equitable, diverse, and inclusive,” said the agreement, photos of which the students posted online.

The commitment involved the implementation of a comprehensive plan to meet the demands of the students, the majority of whom are black.  They said he had agreed to create a campus diversity committee and to also meet with faculty members to talk about a change in curriculum for the school.

According to College Associate Vice President Steven Maurano, all of the students who occupied Shanley’s office left by 9:45 p.m. after he promised to sign the agreement.

Maurano went on to say that Shanley could not sign the agreement right then because some of their demands, including curriculum changes, could not be made without discussing them with faculty members first.

A list of demands from the students was first given to school administration in December, which included changes to practices in faculty hiring and training, in addition to the proposed curriculum changes.  The group specifically asked for the inclusion of African, Native American and Asian narratives in the school’s Western Civilization class.

The school requires students to complete a Western Civilization track that takes four semesters, reports John Bender for RIPR.

Students had originally been told the demands were unreasonable, and involved the entire faculty, not just the college President.  However, the students and the President reached a compromise after hours of revisions, finishing with Reverend Shanley signing a document which said he would begin to work on their requests.  A detailed plan is expected to be offered by March 7th.

In November, close to 100 students pushed for Shanley to address the racism issues on campus.  There are about 1,000 students in the college’s class of 2019; of those students, 16% are black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American.

Earlier this month, five female students of color reported they were not allowed to attend an off-campus party while attendees yelled racial slurs and threw bottles at them.  The women held a rally in which they requested that action be taken by the college.  Supporters attending the rally said that such events were common on campus.  At the time, Shanley responded by saying that college and city police were investigating the incident.

Pilar McCloud, chairwoman of youth, high school and college chapters of the NAACP in Rhode Island, said that Shanley had been in Florida during the incident and should have cut his trip short.  She went on to refer to his response as an “open-handed slap in the face.”