500+ Sign Open Letter Demanding LGBTQ+ Inclusion at Providence College

An open letter from more than 500 members of the Providence College community is calling on the school’s president to stop suppressing LGBTQ+ inclusion on campus. Students, faculty, and staff joined together to protest decisions made by the school’s top administrator.

The open letter to Fr. Kenneth Sicard, O.P was published in mid-March, saying Providence College, a Catholic school run by the Dominican Friars, exhibits “hypocrisy toward and systemic oppression of LGBTQ+ people.” Hundreds signed the letter within hours of its release, the latest step in a multi-year debate on campus over inclusion and diversity issues. According to the Providence Journal, reposted by AOL:

“The tipping point was the resignation of E Corry Kole, a nonbinary employee hired in 2020 as a resource coordinator for the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, or DEI, and later promoted to director of DEI education and professional development. Kole left the post in early March ‘after senior leadership at the college thwarted their efforts to fulfill their job description,’ the letter alleges. . .

“In the meantime, Sicard has promised a statement on the college’s stance on its queer community. After three years, the campus is still waiting.

“It isn’t clear exactly what Sicard’s statement will entail. In an email to faculty, which The Providence Journal obtained, Sicard described it as ‘a long-awaited statement titled “Responding in Love to the Members of our Community who Identify as LGBTQ” which defines the College’s response to allies and the members of the Friar Family who identify as LGBTQ.'”

The president’s ambiguity over this statement has upset LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff at Providence College. In the open letter, the signatories detail progress and setbacks in efforts to build a safe environment for LGBTQ+ people on campus dating back to 1934. Catholic web commentator Jim McDermott sees framing the current crisis in the context of history and important model for other Catholic institutions.  He writes on his site Pop Culture Spirit Wow:

“I’ve seen plenty of Community-to-the-Catholic-Administrators letters like this over the years, but I’m not sure I’ve seen any that offer this kind of historical place setting. And I think it’s a great model for other Catholic communities, not only in moments of crisis but in general. Whether we know of it or not, every Catholic institution has an LGBTQ+ history. Taking the time to research and tell those stories has a lot of benefits.”

In many ways, the current climate,while better than the past, falls far short of what is needed, the letter said. According to the Journal:

“One of those people was James Waters, a biology professor and trans woman who said she was asked two years ago for her feedback on a draft.

“Waters described it as containing ‘long theological, almost legal arguments about why it’s OK to be LGBTQ inclusive on campus.’ She said she couldn’t understand why it was necessary, as similar letters don’t go out for other groups of people.

“‘As a queer person on campus, I am petrified,’ Waters said, describing a ‘fear that permeates the air that we’re not welcome.'”

Former staff member Alex Melvin confirmed these claims of a hostile climate, saying, “Some people are afraid of being out, or if you are just kind of out, you’re always wondering when is it going to be an issue at different points in your career at PC.” Melvin resigned this year because of the climate.

The college’s administration is pushing back against its critics. Sicard, the president, is apparently “aware” of the open letter, according to a spokesperson. And Sicard’s promised statement will, in his words, “recognize the rights and dignity of each member of our community while honoring and remaining faithful to Church teachings on human sexuality.” He claims “dozens of people” were consulted in its drafting.

Still, signatories of the open letter and others are skeptical. The Journal reported:

“Heather McPherson, associate professor of studio art and former chair of the Department of Art and Art History, found the message murky.

“‘It feels like a strategy on their part to be confusing,’ McPherson said, ‘and to keep people uncertain about where the college stands on queer people.'”

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, April 1, 2024

1 reply
  1. Wendy Grimes
    Wendy Grimes says:

    The college seems to believe that they can decide which adults can change names and which cannot. There are dozens of Dominican priests who change their names to “something Mary” or “something Maria” and Dominican sisters who likewise choose men’s names, but heaven forbid Jim wants to go by Jane. Regardless of the motivation for a name change there should not be policing of what name an adult chooses to use and all on the campus are adults.

    As to the question of where queer people stand, please, why do we keep asking. PC is mostly interested in sexual sins and pays little attention to the massive bullying and mistreatment of women, the elderly, and people who are not Catholic. Stay away and go somewhere that is actually more Christian.


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