Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Witch Hunt At Providence College

A Catholic college where faithful Catholics need to take the Benedict Option
Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 6.04.04 PM

A few years back, a professor at a liberal Catholic college told me that he would never quote Pope Francis’s teachings on family and sexuality in his classes, for fear that one of his students would report him to the administration for anti-LGBT bigotry, and that the administration would punish or even fire him. I heard from three other professors who teach there who agreed with him. Sounds crazy, right? Well, here’s a story for you.

This evening, there was a scheduled a campus march at Providence College in Rhode Island, in which students were to have stand firm against a witch Catholic RA who attempted to poison the students’ mind by posting the above presentation to a bulletin board in his dorm. The march may well have been canceled because the college offices closed due to inclement weather. According to a report in The Cowl, the student newspaper:

On Thursday, March 2, a bulletin board promoting marriage between one man and one woman was created by Resident Assistant Michael Smalanskas ’18 on the second floor of St. Joseph Hall at Providence College. Soon after, it was photographed and spread across campus via social media.

The bulletin board was taken down that night by students acting on their own accord, but was put up again the Sunday evening that students returned from spring break. However, this time it bore a message stating its approval from Vice President of Student Affairs Kristine Goodwin, despite the lack of any school policy that requires topic approval for bulletin boards, even through Residence Life.

The Board of Multicultural Student Affairs took up the controversy at its weekly meeting. More:

The meeting began with the executives of PC’s LGBTQ+ advocate organization, SHEPARD, addressing the audience. “LGBT students exist on this campus, we are here, we deserve the same respect and rights that every other student has on this campus,” stated President Mallari Bosque ’18. “We are here and we deserve to be supported the same way that every other student is supported.”

After thanking SHEPARD, [Vice President of Student Affairs Kristine] Goodwin expressed her concern that she and the other administrators would not be capable of fully addressing students’ questions in regard to the incident and further actions of the College because more information was still being gathered.

“I always try to resist reacting,” Goodwin explained. This became a common thread that ran throughout the meeting, as she and Father Gabriel Pivarnik, O.P., vice president for mission and ministry, both encouraged all involved to pause before attacking or growing defensive out of anger.

Stop right there. Students can smell administrative sniveling. That’s when the battle was lost. But let’s go on.

Hieu “Daniel” Nguyen ’20, a resident of St. Joe’s who reported the incident, was the first to voice concerns. He explained that he took action because he felt the bulletin board did not promote inclusion in St. Joe’s and on campus as a whole. “The first time, I felt really upset. But this time, I just feel angry,” he said, adding that he felt the reinstallation of the board was an effort to create a reaction on campus and that he felt especially angry when he saw the mark of approval from Goodwin on display. However, Nguyen acknowledged his feeling of relief when he found out that the approval was inaccurate.

“You belong here,” Goodwin said. “My answer is complicated, and again I’m not skirting it, but it’s important that I show you the complexity. I can tell you I am not in a position to say that what Michael put up, what the RA put up, is contradictory to what the Church teaching is, and so it’s complicated because I am not going to approve it, but I’m also not in a position to say that it cannot be up.”

No, lad, you don’t belong at college, and it has nothing to do with your sexuality or your opinions on sexuality. It has everything to do with the fact that you’re incapable of dealing with opinions you don’t share. It has everything to do with the fact that you chose to attend a Catholic college, and yet fall to pieces when a Catholic student expresses support publicly for Catholic teaching.

Let’s hear from the witch himself, Michael Smalanskas:

“The beliefs I hold are those of the Catholic Church and are consistent with the mission of the College as a Catholic and Dominican school,” Smalanskas explained. “The Church provides us with an account of the human person and sexuality that is good, true, and beautiful. On our campus, we must be committed to protecting the status of these beliefs from being falsely accused as hate speech or bigotry. The question must be put to [college president] Fr. Shanley—will Catholic teaching on marriage as one man and one woman be considered hate speech at Providence College or will its free expression be protected by the College?”

After the bulletin board was reinstalled, students flocked to social media to share their opinions. In an email shared on Tuesday evening, Nguyen encouraged students who wanted to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community to print out the attached pride flag and display it on their door. “If you feel uncomfortable putting it on your door, you can write something positive like ‘Love is love’ or ‘Friar Family,’” he added. Residence Life has asked that students who wish to display messages on their door slide it into the door tag in order to abide by the school’s fire policy.

Next Wednesday, March 21, SHEPARD will hold a march against homophobia and transphobia at 6:30 p.m. The march will begin outside of Slavin and conclude at Moore Hall. On Monday, March 19, SHEPARD will provide materials at its open, weekly meeting at 7:00 p.m. in Feinstein for members of the community to create signs for the march. “We asked for allies, and we ask you guys to stand behind SHEPARD,” said Melanie Fricchione ’19. “Coming and showing support for SHEPARD and coming to this walk shows administration that we do care about this as a community and we will stand with our community members that are LGBT identifying. And we need it. We’re here and we’re queer and we’re not going anywhere!”

Here is an image of a pro-lesbian bulletin board that was up in a female dorm for all of February. No problems with it here at this Catholic school. Nobody intimidated the RA who put this up (nor should they have). But at Providence College, Michael Smalanskas — who, unlike the originator of the lesbian display, defends Catholic teaching — becomes a pariah.

For an added perspective, here is the (understandably!) volcanic reaction of literature professor Anthony Esolen, writing for Crisis, who left Providence College last year after being dragged through the mud by the rabid political correctness on campus. Esolen, now at Thomas More College, knows Smalanskas, but refers to him as “Dominic” in the post (perhaps Esolen did not realize that Smalanskas’s name has been made public). Excerpts:

Dominic immediately became an object of vilification. I have the following from him and from another reliable source:

The poster was torn down. Fellow RA’s—these would be fellow employees of the college—with access to the building abused their power and arranged to mill about in the hall outside his room in a threatening way. There were so many, that college security moved him for his safety. On subsequent days, larger and more raucous groups did the same.

This was right before Spring Break and, after receiving permission, Dominic put the board back up. It was torn down a second time. He put it up a third time, and it was torn down a third time.

The pushback was quick and severe and now includes a cartoon posted in his dorm (and, of course, on social media) of Dominic being anally raped. That’s a Title IX issue. The police were called.

Several Catholic professors urged the administration to do two things. First: make it clear that all harassment of Dominic must stop immediately (with serious consequences for its continuance). Second: issue a statement that to affirm the Catholic (that is, natural) understanding of marriage is not hate speech and would not be treated by the college as such.

The administration came out with a letter that is a model of evasion, duplicity, and smearing by association.

Naturally. Esolen details what’s in the letter, and concludes with the latest:

Students are demanding that the president, Father Brian Shanley, condemn Dominic, and thus ensure that such a poster will never be seen on campus again. This is called establishing a “safe space.” The gay activist group SHEPARD is going to march against “homophobia” and “transphobia” on Wednesday, with the full approval of the administration. That is like dragging Dominic up from the ground and beating him about the head with clubs.

Some of the resident Dominicans have urged Dominic to join the march, to show that he is not what the whole campus now believes him to be. He has been publicly singled out, targeted for vilification, physically threatened, forced to leave his dormitory room, attacked in the campus newspaper, and slimed by the administration—all for what I have described above. And now he is supposed to participate in his own humiliation. For what? [Editor’s note: We have learned that the resident Dominicans who made this recommendation have since reversed course realizing how futile it would be to participate in such a march.] [Note from Dreher: that editor’s note appears in the original, from Crisis magazine]

Read the whole thing.

Fortunately, some of the PC faculty are standing up for Smalanskas. Father Shanley, for his part, issued this equivocating statement about the matter. This report on Lifesite News has a lot more detail, including an interview with Smalanskas and his faculty adviser, James Keating. It also has a photo of a cartoon depicting Smalanskas being sodomized as punishment for the bulletin board. From Lifesite:

Campus police informed Smalanskas of the anal rape cartoon that “had been found in my common bathroom…posted on the mirror.”

This “very disturbing threat” is “a Title IX issue now,” said Smalanskas. A “lawsuit’s not off the table by any stretch.”

Even after the pro-sexual assault cartoon emerged, Providence College has been silent and not condemned the way other students are treating Smalanskas.

“The example that I gave to Kristine Goodwin is, let’s say a young Mexican-American student had put up a poster that said, ‘God loves the dreamers,’ that poster had been torn down, and [the student who created it] felt unsafe in her own dormitory because kids who tore it down were milling outside her door,” said Dr. Keating. “Then, a poster is put up of her being raped. How would the college react?”

“For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Michael doesn’t even get a little bit” of sympathy from the administration. Keating said Providence College’s foremost responsibility is to protect its students’ right to express their opinions, especially when those opinions are in line with the Roman Catholic Church.

The college has “failed” to do this, Keating told LifeSiteNews.

“This kid has had to move to another dorm for safety and the president of the college won’t speak to his parents,” said the anonymous faculty member quoted earlier in this story. If the student was “gay or black,” the college’s response would have been totally different.

This is an utter disgrace. If Smalanskas had to be moved by campus security out of his dorm room for his own safety, because he publicly affirmed Roman Catholic teaching — well, where on earth are the Board of Trustees? Where is the Dominican Order, which runs Providence College? Where are the PC alumni?

I guess this makes at least two Catholic colleges where you can’t quote Pope Francis’s statements on marriage and family without being treated like an Enemy Of The People.

I hope Smalanskas sues Providence College into the ground. The language of legal force is the only thing the gutless administrative enablers of these SJW zealots understand.

Would you want your kid to go to a Catholic college where he would be treated that way for publicly affirming Catholic teaching — and where the administration would not only not defend him, but would aid and abet his persecutors (Goodwin, the VP of student affairs, publicly encouraged student leaders to attend the march called to protest Smalanskas)?

It costs over $60,000 per year in tuition, room, and board for a student to attend Providence College. Think about it. Last year, in the middle of the controversy that later led to him walking away from the college where he had taught for many years, I interviewed Anthony Esolen about the scandal.  Excerpt:

I’ve read your forthcoming book, Out Of The Ashes: Rebuilding America Culture — and it’s terrific. You are particularly hard-hitting about the corruption of college life in America. You say it is “an absolute necessity” for faithful Christians to build new colleges, because it is “not enough to reform the old.” What do you mean? Along those lines, what are the lessons of your present trial at Providence College?

Reforming the old schools will take an entire generation at least, if it is even possible; and in most cases the reform will be spotty. Many schools are beyond reform: they are filled with professors who have disdain for the Church, and their courses in the liberal arts are thoroughly secular, and not particularly impressive intellectually, at that — how can they be, when the greatest concern of human life is systematically ignored or belittled? Providence College can tip either way. I don’t know. My lawyer friend used to teach at PC and told me that that fight is lost. I believe it is not lost … but if I had money, I would give it straightaway to the real deals: Our Lady Seat of Wisdom (Ontario), Thomas More (NH), Wyoming Catholic, Dallas, Benedictine, etc.

What advice would you give to young Christian academics? To Christian parents preparing to send their kids to college?

It’s long past the time for administrators at Christian colleges to abandon the hiring policies that got us in this fix to begin with. We KNOW that there are plenty of excellent young Christian scholars who have to struggle to find a job. Well, let’s get them and get them right away. WE should be establishing a network for that purpose — so that if a Benedictine College needs a professor of literature, they can get on the phone to Ralph Wood at Baylor or me at Providence or Glenn Arbery at Wyoming Catholic, and say, “Do you have anybody?”

Christian parents — please do not suppose that your child will retain his or her faith after four years of battering at a secular college. Oh, many do — and many colleges have Christian groups that are terrific. But understand that it is going to be a dark time; and that everything on campus will be inimical to the faith, from the blockheaded assumptions of their professors, to the hook-ups, to the ignorance of their fellow students and their unconscious but massive bigotry. Be advised.

[UPDATE: More this morning from Prof. Esolen.]

Over $60,000 to send your kid to a nominally Catholic college where administrators won’t stand up for a student vilified by a mob because he publicly endorsed Roman Catholic teaching, and instead encourage students to attend this public protest against the student:



Want to join the conversation?

Subscribe for as little as $5/mo to start commenting on Rod’s blog.

Join Now