After 9 o’clock Tuesday night, several dozen Providence College students left the office of President Reverend Brian Shanley, after protesting there for more than 12 hours. The students and the head of the private Catholic College came to an agreement over changes, demanded by the students, to address racism on campus.
Student protestors issued a list of demands for changes to the school administration in December. Those demands included changes to faculty training and hiring practices, as well as curriculum changes. Specifically the group called for the inclusion of African, Native American and Asian narratives, in the school’s Western Civilization class.
Providence College requires all students to complete a Western Civilization course, which takes four semesters to complete.
Originally, students were told the demands were unreasonable, and required action not just from the college President, but the larger faculty. But after several hours of revisions students and the President came to a compromise. Rev. Shanley signed a document, agreeing to begin work on the requests , and provide a detailed plan by March 7th.
Students say the protest was the culmination of several racially charged incidents over the last semester, and the last several years. Students and faculty of color have complained about campus security, including a 2013 incident in which an African American faculty member claimed she was racially profiled.
At the time, Providence College spokesperson Steve Maurano said those were isolated incidents. More recently, students of color also claim they are subject to hostility, and sometimes racial epithets, from other students.
At the height of the protests, some fifty students were said to have gathered outside Shanley’s office, splayed out on chairs and the floor, many on laptops and phones documenting the protest over social media.
The student-led effort was widely followed and promoted on social media, with the hashtag #PC-break-the-silence, trending on twitter for several hours.