by Andrea Traietti ’21 and Kelly Wheeler ’21
“Friars hold doors.” On Providence College’s campus, it is more than just a saying tossed around lightly or mentioned during tours; it is embodied not just in the physical action of holding the door open, but in extending a helping hand to other friars when they need it.
Although it is a kind gesture, the tragic incident this past weekend has revealed that, in some cases, holding doors might be hurting more than it is helping. While the saying is intended to ensure that members of the PC community are there is help each other, it could be putting some in unnecessarily dangerous situations.
On Sunday, Sept. 15 at 2:04 a.m., Lt. Eric L. Croce from the Office of Public Safety sent an email to all students containing a safety alert. The message stated that “on September 14, 2019, a female non-student reported that she had been sexually assaulted in an on-campus residence hall dorm, during the early evening hours by an unknown and unidentified college aged male who then left the area.” A follow-up email from Koren Kanadanian on Sept. 17 updated students that the man in question had been identified after an investigation by the Office of Public Safety. According to this second email, the assailant, like the assault victim, was not a PC student and steps have been taken to ensure that this individual will not be allowed back on campus.
It is unclear how either of these individuals—both non-students—were able to enter a PC dorm in the first place. It is entirely possible that the students could have been registered guests staying with a PC resident. That way, they would have access to a specific PC dorm through whichever PC students they were staying with.
On the other hand, it is also possible that one or both of these individuals entered the dorm the same way most PC students do: someone else held or opened the door for them. All day long, as students come and go from their dorms, they hold the door for each other. The same goes for weekend nights, as students head into other dorms to meet up with their friends.
Most students living on campus can attest that they have seen someone locked out of their dorm, waiting to be let in. Hardly any PC student would see that person and not let them in. And even fewer would give it a second thought after doing it.
But perhaps they should. Even if both of these individuals were registered guests of PC students, this incident should serve as a reminder, and as a warning, that holding doors—an action most PC students do every day—could be dangerous in the wrong situation. PC RAs even tell their residents at floor meetings that they should not open the doors to their dorm unless they know the people they are letting in.
This is not to say that you should never hold a door again. “Friars hold doors” is arguably a central part of the PC community. If you are returning to your room and notice that the person who sits next to you in Civ is trying to gain entrance to your dorm, you should feel comfortable helping them out.
However, if you do not know whether the person you are contemplating holding the door for is a PC student, it is worth it to simply check in with them to see who they are and what they are doing in your dorm. Maybe their response would reveal that they do not attend PC.
On the other hand, however, if you notice something suspicious or if someone standing outside is making you uncomfortable, it is far better to be safe than sorry. If the student really goes to PC, they can find another way in.
It may seem rude or unneighborly to refrain from holding a door when you notice someone a few steps behind you approaching it, but in the end, this can prevent a lot more harm than simply being perceived as impolite.
Safety alerts like the ones sent by Lt. Croce and Chief Kanadanian tend to evoke feelings of fear and helplessness. Students may find themselves worried that something like this may happen again, but they think that it is out of their power to prevent future incidents. Although the Office of Public Safety is devoted to protecting the Providence College community, safety is not exclusively their responsibility.