When we left Quinnipiac for summer break, tensions between Hamden and the university were even higher than normal after a video surfaced of President John Lahey at an off-campus May weekend party, joking about buying all the houses on Delsole Street.
Since then, town-gown relations have worsened. Hamden’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) determined in May that the university is violating a 2007 condition that requires Quinnipiac to provide housing for every undergraduate student. Quinnipiac promptly said it would build more beds, and then sued Hamden to appeal the ZBA’s decision.
The fact that the town is so adamant that the university has a bed for every single undergraduate student–even the students who do not want to live on campus–is ludicrous. Yes, Quinnipiac needs more on-campus housing, but it is unfair to force the university to build residence halls it knows it will not fill. This is a waste of money and resources, which could be better spent improving student life in other ways.
As a student, it looks like the town is angry at Quinnipiac for not preventing students from living off campus. So the town is trying to trip up the university with the wording of this condition. However, if the university loses this lawsuit it is the students who will pay in increased tuition or room and board charges, not the administration. And if students have to pay more to live on campus, they will move off campus. It is naive of Hamden not to see the bigger picture here.
Hamden residents, I understand why you want students out of residential areas. If I were living with my family next to a bunch of rowdy Quinnipiac students who blasted music late at night or vandalized property, I would be pretty frustrated too.
Instead of facing these problems, the university undermines your feelings. When you voice your complaints about large parties, the university tells you Quinnipiac brings jobs and businesses to Hamden or that hundreds of students volunteer in the community for the Big Event. You are told “not all Quinnipiac students” are bad neighbors. Apparently the fact that not all Quinnipiac students throw massive parties next to your house should be a consolation when your kids cannot sleep at night because of the 50 drunken students next door.
The university plans to hold a town-gown forum in late September or early October, according to university officials. But in May, the university also said it wanted to create a committee with university and community members. Now in September, a university spokeswoman would not comment on the formation of a committee. These are great ideas, but are they really going to happen? And if they do, will they be effective? For too long, the university has childishly hidden behind platitudes without listening to the community, so how can it expect residents to trust QU to make changes?
It is unacceptable that there is little conversation and cooperation between university and town officials. I have lost track of the number of times I have interviewed town officials and heard them say they have not spoken to university members about the subject at hand. The same goes for university officials who have not talked to their Hamden counterparts.
Lahey and Hamden Mayor Curt Leng should sit down for coffee at least twice a month. Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning Salvatore Filardi should chat it up with Hamden Town Planner Leslie Creane over the phone every week. Become friends with each other because only through communication and amiability can these issues be solved.