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Have The ‘Thought Police’ Arrived At Providence College?

The bias police have arrived at Providence College. They may not be wearing brown shirts or steel tipped boots, but the school will have a “Bias Response Protocol (BRP) that will be enacted this upcoming semester. The story behind the creatin of this new protocl centers on a graffiti incident that allegedly had racial overtones. The criteria of the BRP was highlighted in an email ascertained though an anonymous source.

The first paragraph mentions the grafitti incident, but also states that the new protocols will help Providence College’s “efforts to create and sustain a campus community in which all feel connected, valued and respected, we are exploring the development of a process that would help us respond to any future incidents of bias and intolerance (or perceived bias or intolerance).”

The first paragraph mentions the graffiti incident, but also states that the new protocols will help Providence College’s “efforts to create and sustain a campus community in which all feel connected, valued and respected, we are exploring the development of a process that would help us respond to any future incidents of bias and intolerance (or perceived bias or intolerance).”

Does anyone in the real world think they can go through life without their feelings getting hurt?  More importantly, does it it require a bias protocol to address the issue?  Are the resident advisors unable to handle these types of situations without adding more pages to the handbook?  It’s nonsense.  However, the real interesting part of the email is the section where the school says “to be clear, this process is in no way intended to curb the free expression of opinions or ideas. In fact, we hope that an effective protocol will contribute to an environment that encourages dialogue around challenging issues.  Moreover, such a process would not replace any existing policies or procedures.”  

I had the chance to ask Shayna Kaufmann, a senior at Providence, a few questions regarding the new policy. She said that the new policy is “a large job description because humans aren’t objective. We can hardly provide each other with objective national news. That said, chasing down every incident of bias or intolerance could certainly lead to the hindrance of free speech. Most importantly, how the school decides to define “bias” and “intolerance” will determine whether or how the BRP will target conservative groups on campus or furnish the school with a ‘de facto thought police’ [to use your words].” Kaufmann’s concerns are legitimate.  Case in point, the Tom Tancredo fiasco in 2009.

Tom Tancredo, the former Congressman and Republican presidential candidate, planned on speaking at the college, but was banned due to his stance on illegal immigration.  Is that honoring “a campus community in which all feel connected, valued, and respected?” Mr. Tancredo ended up speaking on a sidewalk off of Providence College property.

According to Nancy Krause of WPRI, she wrote back in April of 2009 that “a statement released Monday…said Tancredo’s opposition to illegal immigration ‘directly contrasts’ with those of Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence. Tobin is a member of the school’s Board of Trustees. If a similar request to host a speaker on this topic is made in a future semester, the College will encourage and facilitate a format that allows for multiple points of view to be expressed, the statement said.”

So conservatives can come to Providence and speak, but only if a liberal counterpoint is also presented.  The college could have invited a pro-illegeal immigration activist after Mr. Tancredo spoke the following week. Overall, it’s an unconstitutional collegiate version of the Fairness Doctrine.

This is not an endorsement of Tom Tancredo, but anyone has the right to voice his or her opinion on a given subject.  College campuses that advocate a climate of tolerance, but ban people they disagree with is disingenuous in the extreme.  The free flow of ideas are essential to the survival of a liberal democracy. No matter how virulent those opinions may be to the public.

The fact that Tancredo was banned from speaking gives legitimacy to what William F. Buckley said about “liberals [who] claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”

The new BRP protocol also adds to the complications conservative groups already have in liberal academia, especially when new ones are trying to be created.  On top of “bias alerts,” Providence has an unnecessary and strenuous review process for new student clubs.  My source said that “the process of starting a club on campus is to fill out a proposed club application. You would then present the club idea to the Student Congress Clubs and Organizations committee. If the committee passes the club, it will be sent to Steve Sears for review. If he passes the club as well, legislation will be written and presented to the entire student congress.”  It sounds like standard operating procedure, but if voting members approve a new club, it only receives proposed ‘club status’.

Then,”the legislation goes back to Steve Sears for approval.”  Here is where things get a bit hazy.   According to my source, “the club remains with its ‘proposed club’ classification for two consecutive semesters.  Following the two semesters, the proposed club will come up for review (again) with the Clubs and Organization committee. If the committee decides to give them recognized status (based on a number of criteria), then they will be passed to Steve Sears (again) for approval. If he approves, it goes back to the Student Congress (again) with legislation to make the club official. If Congress approves, the legislation goes back to Steve (again) for review, and if he approves it becomes a recognized club.”  Does anyone have any aspirin?  From Providence’s student handbook, it appears the bureaucratic nightmare my source described rings true.  Becoming an advisor to a club looks like it has its own nauseating procedure.

Providence College Student Handbook

Why so much red tape, Providence?

As a result, it should be no surprise that clubs, like the pro-family Anscombe Society, have struggled to achieve full recognition.  Kaufmann said that the club has remained in limbo since they “failed to send in their monthly financials – which only happened because the club’s exec board was never notified by Student Congress’ Clubs & Organizations Committee that doing so was a requirement. They didn’t know financial monthly reporting even existed.”  Perhaps, if the club review process was more streamlined, this wouldn’t have been an issue.

I asked Kaufmann if the “thought police” had arrived at Providence College?    It remains to be seen.  To be fair, Kaufmann did say that these protocols have yet to be drafted officially – so we’ll see how things play out. It all depends on how the student body, specifically the progressive wing, utilizes this new policy.  If it’s to snuff out conservative dissent and weed out fledgling conservative groups, which I believe is the intent of the BRP, then it should be a very interesting semester.  Welcome freshman!

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Matt Vespa

I'm a staunch Republican and a politics junkie who was recently the Executive Director for the Dauphin County Republican Committee in Harrisburg. Before that, I interned with the Republican Party of Pennsylvania in the summer of 2011 and Mary Pat Christie, First Lady of NJ, within the Office of the Governor of NJ in 2010. I was responsible for updating his personal contact list. My first political internship was with Tom Kean Jr's. U.S. Senate campaign in 2006.

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