13-hour Providence College sit-in ends with president signing list of demands
Over 50 students occupied President Brian Shanley’s office at Providence College on Tuesday evening until he finally agreed to sign a list of student demands after a 13-hour sit-in.
“I, Brian 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,” the agreement stated.
Shanley initially refused to sign the document because it demanded he implement revisions to the university curriculum, which would require several discussions with university faculty members. Among the revisions was a demand that the university change its western civilization curriculum by “significantly integrating the contributions of African, Asian, Native American, Latino/Latina civilizations.”
The protesters insisted Shanley agree to the demands immediately even after he assured them he would address their concerns in due time.
“I will have a plan of action by the end of the semester, a complex plan of action,” Shanley said to the crowd of protesters at 4:30 when the building was set to close. According to the Providence Journal, Shanley’s promise was laughed off by student protesters.
Shanley tried to explain he wanted to review the agreement to make any changes he saw necessary, but the protesters refused to leave his office until they got his signature.
At 9:30, five hours after the building closed, Shanley signed an agreement after the students showed no signs of leaving. Among the demands included in the agreement were the establishment of a campus diversity committee and an increase in faculty members of color. Students gave Shanley until 4 p.m. on March 7 to develop a comprehensive plan to address their concerns.
Students, however, seem skeptical Shanley will actually address their concerns since this is not the first time they have come to him with a list of demands.
“We will see within 20 days, we will see what he comes up with,” student Mary-Murphy Walsh said.
In December, the Coalition Against Racism at Providence submitted a ten-page list of demands to the president’s office but received little in response.
An incident a few weeks ago, in which five black female students were allegedly denied entrance to a party before their classmates threw beer bottles at them, reignited the coalition’s efforts. The list of demands the coalition brought to Shanely on Tuesday is reportedly shorter than its original ten-page document.
Shanley tried to assure students he was conducting a security review and investigating the alleged incident. But the protesters, again, refused to leave without his signature.
Vice President Steven Maurano stepped in to explain to the students that some of their demands would need to be put to the discretion of university faculty, like a demand that all faculty take a mandatory “cultural sensitivity training.” The university, he said, cannot mandate that faculty participate in the training.
“Every time we try to explain that, they accuse us of political rhetoric and stalling. We don’t believe that’s the case,” he added.
The unrest apparently stemmed from an earlier complaint about a lack of diversity in the campus community. Minority groups make up only 16 percent of this year’s freshmen class, but Maurano pointed out that this number has gone up by five percent since Shanley took over. In addition, the university hired 12 new faculty members at the beginning of the year, seven of whom are people of color.
Protesters, however, continue to insist that nothing has been resolved.
“Nothing gets resolved, nothing gets done and people feel like they are not being respected or heard,” said Pilar McCloud, Providence NAACP chairwoman of youth, high school and college chapters. “This incident is just the icing on the cake.”
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