Emotions came to a boil last month when hundreds of Hamden residents gathered to vent their feelings about Quinnipiac students living off campus.
Residents gathered Jan. 5 at the Thornton Wilder Auditorium to share their concerns about Quinnipiac students who live in town.
Among the most common complaints aired that evening were noise at night, traffic law violations, trash left after parties, and excessive drinking, including under-age students.
Resident Donna Wilson said, “I wake up every two hours because of the noise. There is no talking to these students. Their attitude is that ‘I pay my $35,000, I can do what I want to do.’ I’m sick of it.”
Joanne Icobellis, president of the Kenwood Neighborhood Association, who organized the meeting, said she personally e-mailed university officials and informed them of the coming meeting on or around Dec. 28, something that John Morgan, director of public relations, denies.
Icobellis said she posted fliers around town announcing the meeting that ultimately attracted, in her estimation, more than 300 concerned residents.
Overall, she said she was surprised at the high number of residents who attended the meeting.
Iacobellis does not believe the problem is the fault of the students but rather falls on the university officials in a “domino effect.”
“Quinnipiac does not have the capacity to accommodate all of its students,” she said. She added that the lifestyles of the students and neighbors do not mesh.
Iacobellis said the meeting was to identify the problem and not to find a solution. Looking back, she believes the meeting was productive because dialogue between the university and town administration is flowing.
“It gave residents the opportunity to voice their concerns,” she said.
In order for any solution to work, however, Iacobellis said town residents and students must work with the representatives of the town and university.
“Only when you have all four sitting down can change occur,” she said.
Iacobellis believes that building additional dormitories is a good thing, but will only be effective if the university levels off enrollment.
She said the issue is a relatively new one in the town and did not exist until approximately five to 10 years ago.
Hamden Mayor Craig Henrici said he was expecting no more than 50 people at the meeting and was pleasantly surprised to see between 300-400 concerned residents.
Henrici said during his campaign he learned about the off-campus student issue.
However, Henrici now feels that the university is trying to work out the problems with the town and move forward.
He said he supports the prospect of building additional dorms for Quinnipiac students. He said the university has also committed itself to leveling off enrollment.
Henrici encourages students living off campus to build relationships with their neighbors and to drive carefully. He said students should be mindful that many of them are living in neighborhoods with young children and working families.
Matthew Fitch (D-1) said that the forum was productive because it got people together.
“I think it was good. A lot of venting was going on,” Fitch said.
He said Quinnipiac would rather inconvenience students than make its campus non-aesthetic.
However, all in all, Fitch said Quinnipiac is good for Hamden and the meeting was just a first step to ensure everyone’s concerns are heard. He said he is sure that there will be more meetings.
At a Student Government Association meeting last Wednesday, Dean of Students Manuel Carreiro said it is good that students did not attend the meeting because it would have caused more fighting.
Carreiro said that while many of the residents have reason to complain, the residents also need to remember that although some students do act irresponsibly, the majority benefit the town substantially.
He said many students shovel and rake for elderly residents who find it difficult.
In regard to residents complaining that university students are littering in Hamden, Carreiro asked who is doing all the littering during the summer when the students are home.
He called the entire situation “very sensitive” and warned that it could become very ugly.
“There is no way to get around what we do for this community,” Carreiro said. “We are such an asset.”
He said that Quinnipiac benefits Hamden in numerous ways including: never charging anyone to walk or jog through campus, bringing $350 million into the community and having students willing to work for free in local government.
However, Carreiro also said that students sometimes forget that they are guests in this town and that they must be conscious of that.