In their very first issue published on November 16, 1935, The Cowl staff explained the purpose of the novel student newspaper: “Primarily, the COWL exists to serve the student body, not simply as a news organ, but more fundamentally as a means to foster and intensify an enthusiatic Providence College spirit and loyalty.” Since its founding, The Cowl has attempted to be just that, reporting news and welcoming discussion and debate from members of its staff and members of the larger Providence College community.
Unfortunately, however, the mission of the College can, and often has, run contrary to the mission of The Cowl. Topics relating to the LGBTQ+ community have been reported on in The Cowl since 1960, and these stories have been met with encouragement, condemnation, apathy, and disgust. The Cowl’s coverage of these topics reflects the changing attitudes of society as well as the individual and institutional opinions of Providence College.
As the editor-in-chief of The Cowl for the 2021-2022 academic year, I have been able to experience and participate in the making of this history. I have also learned that not everything which happens makes it onto the pages of The Cowl for any number of reasons. While it is impossible to know why certain stories are not included in The Cowl, one must still acknowledge and accept that The Cowl does not tell every story. Thus, this project can only provide a glimpse into the situation for members of the LGBTQ+ community at the College.
This project attempts to trace the history of LGBTQ+ coverage in The Cowl as accurately as possible from its first issue in 1935 to its last issue in 2022. In order to accomplish this goal, I used The Cowl’s repository in the Providence College Digital Commons to access every issue of The Cowl published throughout history. I coded for words relating to LGBTQ+ topics, including “homosexual,” “gay,” “sexuality,” “transgender,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” “queer,” “homophobia,” “LGBT,” “pride,” “sodomy,” “same-sex,” and the f word (which, unfortunately, has appeared in The Cowl on a few occasions).
These searches resulted in the inclusion of more than 200 unique issues of The Cowl, spanning from 1960 to 2022. As the repository for The Cowl only went to December 9, 2021, when I completed this project, I had to manually search for articles having to do with the LGBTQ+ community in the issues published from January 27, 2022 to April 21, 2022. Unfortunately, due the corruption of certain PDFs in the repository or the misspelling of words, certain articles relating to LGBTQ+ topics may have been unintentionally excluded from the project. Where possible, I included advertisements and images included in original issues and tried to copy the text exactly how it appeared in the original issues, in terms of capitalization, spelling mistakes, etc... Those articles marked with an asterisk directly address on-campus events or issues.
It is clear that topics relating to the LGBTQ+ community have been significant to The Cowl’s editorial boards throughout the years, especially during important moments in local, national, and international news. It is my hope that this project can function as a piece of institutional history, preserving the past, highlighting the progress made, and showing how we can be better as a college that accepts all students regardless of their gender or sexuality.