Two years ago, then Student Government Association President Lou Venturelli asked me how we could create an intellectual community at Quinnipiac. I told him to put more benches on the quad.
We never got any benches, so we’ll never know if it would have worked. What we did get though, was a University Theme to be implemented every year and a committee that works on programming around it to foster the said intellectual community. The Campus Cross Talks Committee was born.
This year’s theme was named “You Say You Want a Revolution” in regard to the sentiments showcased in the Arab Spring. College of Arts and Sciences Dean Johannes D. Bergmann chairs the committee, which contains other academics and administrators, as well as SGA representatives and an Honor’s College representative.
As far as the organization of events, the committee performed wonderfully. Many of you attended the lectures by New York Times writers Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman, both of whom were here on behalf of the committee.
Many events, however, were not so well attended. Assistant Director of Student Media Lila Carney and I were responsible for a movie series throughout February. The series served as entertainment as well as academic. For each of the four films, I would estimate we never had more than 10 students in attendance that were not required to be there for a class.
It is too easy to simply call the student body apathetic. We are not an apathetic lot. We raise tons of money through our Greek life organizations, Relay for Life, St. Baldrick’s and a host of others. CAP does tons of community service that people do not really even realize. And who could forget about the Big Event.
So why did nobody care about our discussions that concerned issues larger than Quinnipiac?
Perhaps the problem lies with the sheer number of events taking place on campus and their constant promotion on cork boards, social media, cafeteria posters and Daniel Brown’s weekly emails. Info-mania at its finest/worst.
Political Science Chairperson Sean Duffy, who led the discussion for our screening of “Syriana,” cites the lack of a dedicated time for events like ours. “While we think we’re trying to provide nourishment for a ‘culture of independent discovery,’ it comes across as yet another demand on whatever limited, unscheduled time may exist in a student’s weekly schedule,” Duffy said in an email addressing the lack of attendance.
What Duffy seems to be hinting at is the necessity for a “university hour,” which SGA has been advocating that Quinnipiac institute for years. Duffy also cites the lack of space available for such programming, which is accentuated by the recent suspension of the IDD minor on grounds of lack of space.
The problem with the university hour is that the space would be quickly filled up by every organization. Instead of fighting for 9:30 p.m. time slots on Monday through Thursday, they would be lining up a million events during that designated Wednesday afternoon hour.
It would help the situation, by providing an additional hour of extracurriculars, but I fail to see how it would foster the intellectual community that Venturelli had asked me about.
What we are looking to create at Quinnipiac is the type of atmosphere where people want to engage in what the Director of the University’s Honor Program Kathy Cooke calls “constructive leisure.” The type of event that gets you thinking about something bigger, but does not require a term paper about it. It keeps your mind sharp and engaged with the world.
I cannot see why every aspect of programming at Quinnipiac is not this type. We need to program with a purpose. If it is not raising money for kids with cancer or giving us free food, we do not care. There needs to be some sort of middle ground in terms of greater societal worth. The Campus Cross Talks Committee provided those venues and they were left largely unfilled.