Threats of Murder Go Unpunished at Providence College

This article is a continuation of the previous, written on behalf of Michael Smalanskas, the brave student at Providence College who posted a sign affirming reality: because the Catholic teaching that only a man and a woman can feasibly marry is but a plain recognition of what is biologically, physically, and anthropologically the case. We do not need special revelation to tell us that the sun rises in the east, that two and two are four, and that the congress of the sexes requires the sexes. But we live in a time of political madness.

So after Michael was threatened with rape, and had for several nights to walk a gauntlet just to go to the bathroom and brush his teeth, and after the president, Father Brian Shanley, refused to meet with him or his father, and he became a marked man on campus, what could possibly be worse?

A murder threat is worse.

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Let us recall that, in the fall of 2016, the entire campus was in an uproar over allegations that racist epithets were cast at some women who were trying to enter a private residence where a party was going on, that it was a whites-only party, and that bottles were thrown at them. Eight students forthwith occupied Father Shanley’s office for thirteen hours, presenting him with a list of demands (called, in fact, “The Demands”) regarding courses, student life, hiring, and tenure. But as it turned out, it was not a whites-only party, there were no racist epithets, the leader of the girls was drunk, and the only bottle thrown was a plastic water bottle, half empty, nor could anybody determine who threw it from the balcony or whether it was tossed with any intent. The investigation ruined the whole next semester for the accused. When the associate vice president for student affairs, Kristine Goodwin, who conducted the trial, was asked whether the boys could be forgiven the offense of having a party, she refused. The girls who had disturbed the peace, who in the most charitable interpretation of events had been mistaken or had exaggerated, and who had wanted to take part in that same offense, were not reprimanded.

The professors who leapt to judgment against the boys never apologized. Goodwin did not apologize.

Now to the present, Thursday, May 17.

Michael and his fiancée are at Foxwoods Casino for the senior dance. The event is not cheap. He is seated at table with people he does not know, but who know him, because, after what the college allowed and subtly encouraged, everybody knows him. A young man at the table, we’ll call him Student 1, demands that Michael and his fiancée leave. Others at the table say they want him gone, too. Michael, who has paid for his and his fiancée’s dinners, declines the invitation. Student 1 begins to grow obnoxious, and invites Michael to step into another room, where they have words, and he calls Michael things I will not repeat. Michael says he is just there to enjoy himself, and the whole controversy need not come up.

Meanwhile, another young man, we’ll call him Student 2, approaches them and says, “What’s your address? I want your address, because I want to come get you. I want to come stab you, because that’s what you deserve. You deserve to be stabbed for being so ignorant.” The language was more colorful than that, of course. Student 1 then joined in, and Michael finally had to tell them to do something right there and get it over with, after which they backed off.

Michael Smalanskas was threatened with murder—for being normal, and for not wanting to hide under a bushel or a mountain the Church’s understanding that the sun rises in the east, two and two make four, and it takes a man and a woman to make a marriage.

He went immediately to one of the Dominicans in attendance, then to the Connecticut police, and the security at Providence College.

The next morning he sent a message to Goodwin, Father Shanley, Father Sicard (the executive vice-president), and Steve Sears (Dean of Students), informing them of what had happened at the casino. “I told them,” he writes, “they were each personally responsible for this occurring, given that they [had] created an environment where this [was] tolerated and encouraged.” A hostile environment in the proper sense of the word: violent assault. Michael demanded, reasonably, that Student 1 and Student 2 be forbidden to march at graduation, “seeing as others have been given this sentence for much less.”

Did the campus move into action? It is to laugh. Says Michael, “I received a cold, careless e-mail back from Kristine Goodwin on behalf of the group, saying they had been made aware of the situation. A no-contact order was placed on [Verenis]. She said [the complaint] would go to Community Standards from there, and to let her know if she could be of any assistance.”

Would that be assistance before or after the student made good on his threat?

That evening, Friday, May 18, Michael received an e-mail from Sears and from Public Safety, essentially saying that everything was fine. The complaint would be processed after graduation on May 20. The message was written by the college’s legal counsel. In Michael’s opinion, the campus security were taking the threat seriously, “but the college wanted nothing to do with it.”

We come to Saturday morning, May 19, some 36 hours or more after the threat. It’s the awards ceremony, and Michael is to receive the prize for top student in theology, and another for excellence in philosophy. After the ceremony he is standing outside and Goodwin passes by. He calls her name, but she ignores him. Then he says, “You should be ashamed of yourself. I was threatened with murder and you did nothing about it. You can live with that for the rest of your life.”

That is all. He said this in public. Witnesses can vouch for it.

Later, he is informed that unless he apologizes to Goodwin for “threatening” her, he will not be allowed to march at graduation. So he has to leave the celebration to go to the safety office, where he declines the honor of apologizing for something he did not do. At 10 PM he is informed that he will be permitted to walk, but only because Goodwin had acquired a bodyguard for the day, to sit with her on the stage. There would also be plain-clothes policemen all around, ready to haul him out of there if he so much as flinched. No guards, apparently, on the lookout for Student 1 and Student 2.

This restraining order continues in force, and Michael will be barred from the college for making Goodwin feel “threatened.” It is a classic case of bad conscience and projection. I must pause to untangle the contradictions. Goodwin was pleased to monitor (and encourage) a large and unprecedented protest against a single faculty member (me), and it never occurred to her then that protesters can grow violent even after a protest is over, or that somebody might feel threatened by being so targeted. I didn’t—but my wife did, very much so, on my behalf. Goodwin never wrote to Michael to offer him support when he was threatened with rape. She never moved to discipline the students who congregated in his hall after hours. She did not forbid the assaulter to march at graduation. Of course not. When you give your heart and soul to politics, you lose your sense of decency, proportion, plain dealing, and human kindness. It does not matter what the politics is.

Michael did nothing wrong. His championing of the truth of marriage is only what Father Shanley and Father Sicard themselves should be doing, frankly and simply. That should not be left to a lone student, and when he does their job, he should not be treated as a criminal.

Let’s go over this again. A student is made the object of universal loathing, at a supposedly Catholic college, for a poster that did nothing but affirm that the sun rises in the east, two and two are four, and it takes a man and a woman to make a marriage. These are my words: his poster was entirely affirmative, condemned nobody, and employed not one satirical word or glance. He is harassed in his dormitory and threatened with rape. The president will not meet with him or his father. Then at the senior dance he is harassed and threatened with murder. The college does a big nothing. When, forty hours later, he accuses the dean of student affairs of being indifferent to the threat, she accuses him instead and threatens to bar him from graduation, the same graduation where all of the offending students, including Student 1 and Student 2, would be marching without consequence.

There is only one explanation for all of this. The people in charge of Providence College do not actually believe that it takes a man and a woman to make a marriage. So anybody who upholds the truth publicly ought to pay. That is why I am told they are backing, to be the new Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, a woman who boasts that she left her husband, whom she says she loved, to carry on sexual affairs with other women. She is now “married” as a lesbian. Meanwhile marriage is sinking like a ball of lead in the deep blue sea, and they do not care. They are on the right side of history, they suppose. I cannot find that right side in Scripture.

It is as if the whole misery-making Sexual Revolution had passed overhead like a little white cloud, leaving behind nothing but good cheer and solid families and children born within the strong haven of marriage, and the culture roundabout were full of wholesomeness, and—and to hell with it. It was the most calamitous mistake of my lifetime, and I and everyone who grew up in its midst have been harmed by it. To hell with it. And as for Catholic schools that capitulate to it—let God judge. He is just, and is not to be fooled by our slogans.

(Photo credit: Michael Smalanskas)


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