South Quad project, funding for student organizations highlight State of the QUnion

February 20, 2023

Tom Ellett and other administrators speak in the Mount Carmel Auditorium.

Questions about the future direction of Quinnipiac University, including the South Quad construction and more funding for student organizations, framed the recent State of the QUnion forum in the Mount Carmel Auditorium.

The annual event, sponsored by the Student Government Association, featured a panel led by President Judy Olian. She was joined by Tom Ellett, chief experience officer; Debra Liebowitz, provost; and Don C. Sawyer III, vice president for equity, inclusion and leadership development.

SGA vice president Kay Owolabi served as moderator for the 90-minute conversation. Students submitted a number of questions to Quinnipiac administrators before the event. Other questions were asked live during the forum.

One student in attendance asked Olian how Quinnipiac measures “accountability and recognizing areas for improvement.” The president cited Quinnipiac's strategic plan, a living document that requires the university to continually assess where it’s made progress, where it’s stayed the same and where it needs to do better.

She said students are always at the center of this authentic, unvarnished self-assessment.

“The well-being and success of our students is what I care about day and night,” Olian said, adding that when students thrive, they develop important leadership skills. “These skills prepare students and position them for the future — their future careers, their future life success and their future civic lives.”

In a submitted question, students suggested that the South Quad construction is encroaching on Pine Grove. Although some pine trees have been cleared on the job site, Olian pointed to before-and-after photos that showed a “noticeable” loss of trees after a 2018 tornado ripped through campus.

In addition, Olian said she’s sensitive to the needs of students with accessibility issues during construction of the South Quad. The project, which is scheduled to open during the 2024-25 academic year, required closing the pathway between Bobcat Way and the College of Arts and Sciences after ground was broken for construction this winter.

“We want to make sure that during this disruption period — and we’re going to try and minimize it as much as possible — that we accommodate anyone who needs any special transportation or other forms of assistance,” Olian said.

When completed, the South Quad will include a new home for the School of Business, a new academic building with a 700-seat auditorium and a new 417-bed residence hall for first-year students.

In another submitted question, some student organizations “expressed frustration over several semesters concerning the lack of funding within the organizations which contribute to the student experience,” Owolabi said.

Ellett, who serves as a liaison and champion of the student experience, said he strongly values the importance and student ownership of clubs and organizations at QU.

“The heart of an institution is its student engagement and student leadership,” Ellett said. “A lot of areas were cut during the pandemic, academic and non-academic, so we want to be really thoughtful, and we want to hear from our students. ... I certainly will advocate and work with the management committee to look at where we can potentially find some funding for student organizations.”

Amada Arroyo, vice president of the Indigenous Student Union and community service chair of the Latino Cultural Society, stood up and questioned the panel about QU’s obligation to honor and acknowledge Indigenous people.

“What do think your responsibility is toward Indigenous students and Indigenous culture and making sure to not perpetuate harmful colonial narratives at a school named Quinnipiac,” Arroyo asked.

Sawyer said that the university is deeply committed to increasing awareness and appreciation of the Quinnipiac people and their culture.

“All institutions that are on lands that were Indigenous lands have a responsibility to respect and honor the people who were there,” Sawyer said. “I also think our response gets ratcheted up a bit because of the name of the institution. That causes us to have a greater responsibility.”

In addition, Sawyer said the university has removed the harmful appropriation of “The Legend of Hobbomock” from all spaces, plaques and website references.

“Students, faculty and staff will know that when you come here, what the name means, who they were, and our responsibility and dedication to honoring their history in the present,” Sawyer said.

Other topics of conversation included confirmation that the 700-seat auditorium in the new academic building can be used for QU theater, dance and music performances; a commitment from Ellett to explore dining and dietary options for Muslim students, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan; and ensuring confidential interactions between students and staff affiliated with Title IX and the CARE Team.

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