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Father Shanley's Response

​​​​​​​​​​​​​A Message to the Providence College Community

Providence College has worked hard in the last decade to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable community.  Our progress, however, is incomplete and much more work needs to be done.  Over the last several months, in open forums and private conversations, I have witnessed the hurt, anger, and frustration experienced by many members of the College community, but particularly by students of color, who continue to feel marginalized, oppressed, misunderstood, and ignored, both in and out of the classroom.  The hurt that many feel is deeply rooted in experiences here at Providence College that have caused great pain and that are contrary to our Catholic and Dominican Mission, which “affirms the God-given dignity, freedom, and equality of each person.”   It is clear that we have yet to achieve on campus the vision of community that St. Paul describes in one of the earliest scriptures of the Christian tradition:  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).  Bishop Desmond Tutu echoed St. Paul when he said:  “In God’s family, there are no outsiders, no enemies.” Until we overcome the barriers and dichotomies that keep us apart, we do not yet live in the community that Christ calls us to achieve.  That must be our goal. 

Some of the anger and frustration on our campus is caused by a perceived lack of substantive progress on the student demands and recommendations that were first brought to the administration and the faculty in November.  Many feel that the Administration and I have not done enough to demonstrate a serious commitment to addressing problems of racism, and that too much time has been spent on dialogue rather than on demonstrable action.   Some wonder whether there can be real change on our campus.

I promised the student coalition that I would address their written concerns with a written response.  The following report provides an explicit response about actions that have been taken, and that will be taken, to address community concerns.  ​

I. Inclusive Curriculum

​A. Faculty and Staff Cross-Cultural Competence Training:

​​I am committed to ongoing cultural competency initiatives being made available to all faculty and staff, and will provide the necessary funding.  While some administrative divisions/departments have already participated in such workshops, I will ask the vice presidents to arrange for workshops for remaining divisions/departments before the end of the summer to ensure participation by all administrators and staff.  For faculty, I will ask academic administrators to arrange for departmental workshops for each academic department, and will continue to require such training for all new faculty.  Specific initiatives related to the faculty will include the following:

​1. Professional development in cultural competence, inclusive pedagogy, and culturally responsive teaching will be required of all new faculty.

2. All academic departments will participate in professional development in the areas of cultural competence, inclusive pedagogy, and culturally responsive teaching. Departments will work with the Office of Institutional Diversity, Center for Engaged Learning, and Center for Teaching Excellence to design customized professional development sessions for faculty.

3. Additional resources and support will be provided to departments as they consider approaches to inclusive pedagogy.

4. The Office of Institutional Diversity, Center for Engaged Learning, and Center for Teaching Excellence will continue to collaborate on inclusive excellence and will provide resources, professional development, and ongoing consultation to the entire PC community.

5. Off-site conferences for inclusive pedagogy will be identified and funds will be provided for faculty to attend.

6. Expert consultants from within and outside the PC community will be identified and integrated into professional development offerings.

7. Resources will be allocated for the specific purpose of promoting and supporting inclusive excellence campus-wide.

​B. Department of Elementary and Special Education:

The Elementary/Special Education Department takes most seriously the concerns about diversity and inclusiveness expressed recently by students.  In response, the Department voluntarily has chosen to participate in Academic Affairs’ “Continuous Improvement Program.”  As part of this focused CIP, the faculty in the Department are conducting a self-study around three central questions:

1. How can the Department improve its assessment system, particularly its admission assessment system, to make it more effective, understandable, and culturally sensitive?

​2. How can the Department improve its efforts to prepare teacher candidates who demonstrate culturally responsive teaching practices?

​​3. How can the Department recruit and retain teacher candidates who are diverse with respect to culture, ethnicity, language, economic background, gender, and religion?

In accordance with typical CIP procedures, once the self-study is complete, the Department will engage 2-3 external reviewers to evaluate the self-study; to visit campus to meet with students, faculty, and staff; and to provide feedback and recommendations.  

​Note that the Department also undergoes continuous external program review and approval by the RI Department of Education.

C. DWC Curriculum:

​The Development of Western Civilization Program is the Core of the Core at Providence College, and we are proud of our legacy of educating students from all walks of life for nearly five decades. Over that period, DWC has also undergone significant revisions and changes that have led to greater engagement with traditionally underrepresented and non-Western perspectives. Most especially, the addition of the 4th semester colloquium has allowed for a wide range of topics, including race, gender, non-Christian religions, and non-Western cultures, to be explored from a variety of perspectives. In addition, many of our faculty are exploring new and interesting ways to bring these themes into the first three semesters. 

It is important to remember, going forward, that the DWC Program does not have a fixed curriculum, but rather Core Objectives that are to be met by each individual team syllabus. These Objectives (which can be found in the Core Legislation) are intended to meet the goal of providing an interdisciplinary introduction to the Humanities, primarily through core texts of philosophy, theology, literature, and history. While there is an emphasis on the wide and varied Western tradition, it is not exclusive, nor can it be. Further, respect for the expertise and academic freedom of our eighty-plus faculty teaching in the Program makes it imperative that we maintain flexibility in these Core Objectives.

The Program will both continue and intensify its discussion of how to best to teach DWC in an increasingly globalized and pluralistic society, in tandem with the College’s efforts, first and foremost, through the DWC Program Committee (DWC-PC).  The DWC-PC is the oversight and reform mechanism built into the Program, and it includes elected members from the four main Humanities departments, as well as other schools in the College, and student representatives.  Our changing student population is important to us and we are concerned with improving approaches to the material that addresses the needs of all of our students. The DWC-PC will undertake the following steps, in consultation with the wider DWC faculty, as a way to improve the Program as a whole:

​1. Participate in a continuous improvement assessment (CIP), in which the Program invites outside evaluators to examine the Program.  The assessment will focus on, among other issues, the inclusivity of the Program.

2. Provide workshops and ongoing discussions about inclusive pedagogy. The DWC Program hosts pedagogy workshops at the end of each academic year. Beginning in May of this year, the workshops will be devised and implemented with a particular attention to inclusive pedagogy development.

3. In consultation with the Academic Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate, the DWC-PC will explore an addition to the Core Objectives for DWC that focuses on historically underrepresented groups.

4. Convene focus groups of students and faculty to assess the effectiveness of the new Core Objectives and the strengths and weaknesses of the Program.

5. Create an online repository of DWC syllabi to educate the campus community on the kinds of work professors and students are accomplishing in the new DWC curriculum.

6.​ Add at least one Core Fellow for DWC who will work with the Center for Teaching Excellence, the Office of Institutional Diversity, and the Center for Engaged Learning to provide additional consultation for faculty as they develop inclusive pedagogical practices, and propose new colloquia courses. This also will include a proposal for a resource library for DWC faculty to assist in syllabus development.

D.Expansion of Race, Ethnic, Cultural Studies, and Women’s Studies:

The College is committed to increased staff and leadership support for a Center for Interdisciplinary Studies once facilities renovations are completed. The Center will house the Latin American Studies Program as well as Asian Studies, Black Studies, and Women’s Studies, among others. This academic year, the Provost will appoint a Director to the Latin American Studies Program and will bring together faculty with expertise in these interdisciplinary areas to discuss how to grow and enhance student interest.  Ultimately, substantive changes in academic programs must move through the official program approval process of the Committee on Studies and the Faculty Senate.​

​​E. Recruitment and Hiring:

The College is committed to strengthening its recruitment and hiring practices to promote commitment to Mission, academic excellence, and diversity among its faculty. This must involve active engagement of the faculty and will involve public discussion of the next steps. The ongoing effort to recruit and retain women and faculty of color has borne fruit.  In the last twelve years, 43% of faculty hired were women and 20% were AHANA.​The current steps for hiring faculty for excellence and diversity can be found here.​

The Offices of Academic Affairs and Institutional Diversity will continue to offer workshops and support to departments in their recruitment efforts, with the goal of increasing the percentage of women hired to 50% and maintaining a 20% rate for faculty of color.  $50,000 is included in yearly budgets to hire faculty of color.

​F. Campus Climate Report:

​The full report of the campus climate focus groups conducted by Rankin & Associates has been made available to the Community on the College’s Internal Web Page under “Links for Everyone.” 

I have authorized the introduction of recurring quantitative campus climate surveys to provide more timely data that can help us assess our progress over time.  These data will enable us to measure tangible progress and to inform the development of new initiatives.

II. Vice President for Inclusion and Diversity:

 ​In colleges most like PC, there is no Vice President for Diversity.  In many institutions, the chief diversity officer reports to either Human Resources or Student Affairs.  I am not in favor of creating a new vice presidential position, nor do I agree that the CDO position must be filled by a tenured faculty member.  Tenure offers no protection for an administrative position.

Effective immediately, however, Associate Vice President/Chief Diversity Officer Rafael Zapata will report directly to me, and will have complete access to the Cabinet.  I will meet with him weekly, and more frequently as necessary.  To ensure appropriate engagement with the Faculty, the CDO will report, on a dotted line basis, to the Provost.  To provide an appropriate level of job protection, I will offer the CDO a multi-year contract.  This is consistent with the current vice presidents and other high-level administrators. 

I also will ask the soon-to-be formed Diversity and Inclusion Committee to provide recommendations as to the proper staffing of, and reporting lines for, the Office of Inclusion and Diversity, as well as specific recommendations for assessing campus climate and programs related to sensitivity training for students.  Funding will be set aside for the implementation of these recommendations.  

​III. Title VI Coordinator:

​​I acknowledge the need for more centralized reporting of bias incidents.  This was my intention in forming the Bias Response Team and in the Team’s development of the Bias Response Protocol.  The procedures in place for reporting and responding to bias incidents need to be evaluated and perhaps modified to ensure compliance with best practices.  My intention is to ask the Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Committee to evaluate these procedures and make appropriate recommendations.  I also will ask the Committee to recommend a suitable individual to be given oversight of Title VI compliance.  I will await the recommendations of external consultants Margolis and Healy concerning the Office of Safety and Security.

IV. Center for the Study of the Black Diaspora:

​I believe that an appropriate first step would be to visit one or more liberal arts institutions with similar centers.  We have conducted initial research on a number of other colleges to determine which have centers for the study of the black diaspora. I will ask the Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Committee to discuss these centers and to recommend which (if any) of the centers they believe we should visit, and who the appropriate people would be to make that visit.


V. Multicultural Center in Moore Hall:

​I support completely the establishment of a multicultural center in Moore Hall, and I approved this several months ago.  The voices of students, faculty, and staff should inform the vision and development of the Center. I have authorized Associate Vice President/Chief Diversity Officer Rafael Zapata to create and steward a committee of a cross-section of the campus community to facilitate this process.

The College will commit up to $1 million in the next two years for structural modifications, and will provide funding for the appropriate staffing of the Center.  

VI. Diversification of the Student Affairs Staff:

​​​The vice president for student affairs (VPSA) has assured me that the interests outlined in this demand are reasonable and consistent with her priorities and her Division's five-year operational plan.  The Division of Student Affairs in its "Friar Four" foundational pillars, developed four years ago by students, faculty, and administrators, emphasizes the significance of cultural agility.  The learning outcomes, associated programs, and data are available for you to review with Student Affairs' associate and assistant vice presidents and their assessment and communications specialist.

Student Affairs, in their hiring, has prioritized, and will continue to prioritize, diversification of professional, administrative, paraprofessional, and student staffs.  They have made progress in most of their departments and have pending hires that will further this initiative.  They will continue to include students throughout these processes.

Based on student, staff, and faculty feedback, the Division of Student Affairs was recently reorganized into four subdivisions (Student Life, Student Development, Integrated Learning, and Safety and Security).  The position previously named “Director of Cultural Education and Programs” has been renamed as “Assistant Dean of Students/Director of Cultural Education” and moved to the Dean of Students’ Office.  Student Activities has been renamed the Office of Student Activities and Cultural Programming and they are in the process of hiring an associate director with an expertise in cultural programming.  As you know from the campus email, Personal Counseling recently announced the hiring of new staff who specialize in supporting the needs of underrepresented populations of students.  All of these changes were motivated by student feedback.

Student Affairs' professional and paraprofessional staff trainings, professional development, and performance evaluations focus on diversity and cultural competence.  In January 2016, the Division instituted a universal expectation that every staff member be able to demonstrate professional advancement in cultural agility as part of His/her annual performance appraisal.

Because there is still work to be done with regard to space audits, orientation programs, diversification of student leadership, and the safety and security of all students, I have asked the VPSA and members of her leadership team to meet with the presidents of the NAACP PC student chapter, BMSA, and Student Congress.  The purpose of the meeting will be to further discuss this article of the demands document, make recommendations for student representation on the Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Committee, and review expectations, policies, and protocols for campus protests and demonstrations.  That meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 7th.

VII.Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Committee:

This Committee will be formally appointed after I consult with student representatives.  As College President, I do not chair committees. I will attend as many committee meetings as possible, and given the importance of the Committee, it will report directly to me.​

What I have listed here is a snapshot progress report of where we are now.  There is much work that lies ahead of us, and the major task of the Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Committee is to develop a strategic plan that will guide our future efforts.  There is strong reason for hope because of the goodwill of so many at Providence College.  As was demonstrated at the open forum of February 11, as well as at the President/Provost—Faculty meeting of February 24, the campus community is passionately committed to developing and sustaining an environment that is more equitable, diverse, and inclusive.  

I fully renew my commitment to continuous action with faculty, staff, and students in these efforts.   As we go forward, the primary model for progress has to be dialogue that is inclusive, thoughtful, and mutually respectful.   Dr. Martin Luther King once said that “a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”  I know of no way to mold consensus except through dialogue.  I know that dialogue moves slower than some people would like and that it cannot be an excuse for inaction.  But if we are to achieve truly substantive and cultural changes in our community, this has to be a collaborative work.  Dr. King reminds us that “change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”  If we struggle together in love and truth and mutual respect, we can work together to achieve a community where each person is valued as the unique image of God that he or she is.  I ask you to pray with me that God may bless our work together as we continue the Lenten struggle to repent of sin, especially racism, and become the true image of the God who calls us continually to change.


Brian J. Shanley, O.P.