Quinnipiac is acting like a steam train racing to crash. It is making big changes to the community that could prove more damaging than beneficial.
President Judy Olian recently made the announcement that Quinnipiac plans for the Irish Hunger Museum to run on ‘self-sufficiency’ by June 2020, according to a campus-wide email sent on Feb. 4. This is by no means a win for the museum, now in temporary affiliation with QU.
Quinnipiac has had a good presence in the U.S. and the Hamden community for some time now. This is because of its contributions to the wider and local community, both Irish and non-Irish. That is why the community radio station WQUN, the Irish Hunger Museum and the St. Patrick’s Day parade sponsorship need to remain a part of QU.
Joe Iasso, senior higher education leadership major, made a statement for a news article in The QU Chronicle on Jan. 30 about the Irish Hunger Museum:
“I believe our relationship with our surrounding communities should be a much higher priority than our relationship with Ireland and Irish immigrants,” Iasso said.
“The Irish Hunger Museum has educated students from 50-60 different schools ranging from elementary to high school level in the entire New England area since its inception in 2012,” Ryan Mahoney, the executive director of the Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, said when asked about the current statistics of the museum.
He continued, saying that they are “leading and teaching classes on some of the founding principles that are relevant with today’s culture ranging from immigration, xenophobia, government corruption and hunger.”
All of these are very current conversations in America and the world. Kids are being taught these lessons at the museum from as early as second grade.
It seems that future generations are being taught beautiful values that all people need.
“The museum has programs set up for kids and adults approximately once or twice a week,” Mahoney said. “This is in addition to conducting multiple community outreach programs every month”.
In a world where the nations that, in my opinion, we all previously looked up to are making increasing restrictions on immigration, such as the current BREXIT and Trump wall, it now seems we are also building a wall between Quinnipiac and the wider community, or a whole new kind of QU version of BREXIT, perhaps a QUEXIT from the Hamden community.
Therefore, is important that we continue to incorporate the principles of the museum into students’ lives inside and outside Quinnipiac University.
The Irish connection is actually one of the biggest parts that promote the image of QU on an international level. As an international student myself from the U.K., I understand the necessities of establishing stronger international connections and education. Currently, there are strong connections to four different universities in Ireland. These being: Cork, Maynooth, Dublin and Galway.
Imagine the reaction of the Irish students from these Irish universities when they hear that we are no longer showing our Irish cultural connection with the disconnect with the Irish Hunger Museum in 2020 and Quinnipiac no longer participating in the parade. The Irish connection with Quinnipiac speaks volumes to our community, our university status and our pride in supporting major global issues that we are still facing today.
Quinnipiac President Emeritus, John Lahey, currently introduces the museum on their website, https://www.ighm.org/, as follows:
“More clearly than many others, Murray [Lender] grasped the compelling nature of the Great Hunger story and the importance of educating people about its true causes and consequences,” he said according to the website. “Murray’s vision and the generous financial support of both Murray and his brother, Marvin, led to the creation of the Lender Family Special Collection Room, An Gorta Mór, in the Arnold Bernhard Library on our Mount Carmel Campus.”
Lahey also touches on the legacy of the museum.
“This initial collection of art, research and educational materials has been augmented during the past 20 years and now represents the world’s largest collection of Great Hunger-related art and educational resources,” Lahey said.
This shows that the Irish connection was a collaborative idea by both Lahey and Lender, the son of a Jewish immigrant from Poland, nearly 20 years ago. In an article published by RTE,Irish national television and broadcaster, in July 2018, his connection to Lahey and the plight of Irish people was explained.
“Mr. Lahey says Murray saw parallels between the struggles of the Irish and those faced by his own family, Jewish immigrants who fled Europe before the Holocaust… Marvin Lender said that he and his brother Murray could identify with the Irish famine story because of the Jewish people’s suffering during the Holocaust.”
This perhaps gives us a better understanding of Murray Lender’s connection to the Irish Hunger Museum. It could suggest that he felt it was important that the Quinnipiac and wider community understand the issues of xenophobia, government corruption, hunger and immigration. Lahey shared this understanding and even expanded this with added emphasis to the Irish ties with the regular participation in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade to show further support.
Nowadays, it seems we are going backward rather than forward. In my opinion, I feel that the university’s presence in the parade used to be a pride for most Quinnipiac students and its alumni as they see their university on TV. It seems now the university has truly taken the U (the students and community) and made it all about the Q. Instead of educating you about the importance of the lessons and principles that Lender and Lahey had intended with the connection, it is being taken away.
In regards to WQUN serving Quinnipiac, the radio station appears to be a bridge between the university, its local community and businesses. One of the ways WQUN has demonstrated its value to the community could be shown with its recent award given to the station in 2018 by The Cheshire Chamber of Commerce with its show “Lunch with Landry.” The award detailed that this honor is given to people or services “exhibiting a firm commitment to and support of the Chamber through involvement in Chamber functions,” according to the Cheshire Chamber of Commerce.
WQUN also seems to have made an impact on the community. This is shown through a petition recently made online on Care2 Petitions, by a Hamden resident who made herself known online, solely as Holly M, has received 854 supporters since the petition started on Jan. 17demanding to “Save WQUN AM1220 Radio” which is also the title of the petition. Signatures include the first selectman of North Haven Michael Freda and Mayor of Hamden Curt Leng.
“[WQUN] is an incredible community resource, the Public Safety centerpiece,” Leng said in the online petition. “I’m hopeful that the university rethinks this short-sighted decision.”
Furthermore, Emma Spagnuolo, general manager of the student-run radio station WQAQ, spoke at volume to me during an interview regarding how valuable she feels WQUN is, not only for the community but also for its students who plan on breaking into the radio industry either during college or after college.
“In my freshman year they [WQAQ] had a lot of open time slots and were super flexible with giving people time on air,” Spagnuolo said. “Now it’s pretty much full and it’s difficult to fit everyone in.”
This year, there are currently 170 students involved with WQAQ, according to Spagnuolo, spreading across 60 different radio shows. Spagnuolo, also shared her personal experience with a community radio show she works for when she’s home.
“They have such a loyal listener base like WQUN,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s just so sad that Quinnipiac has proposed the closing of WQUN.”
I think that Quinnipiac needs to keep its Irish ties as well as WQUN because of their importance to the Quinnipiac community.