Being Black at Quinnipiac

Black students share their experiences at a Primarily White Institution

Emily DiSalvo, Arts and Life Editor

Design by Connor Lawless

Quinnipiac University is very white.

According to qu.edu, 76.32% of the class of 2022 identifies as white. Being Black at Quinnipiac means being a super-minority — less than 5% of the population. Black students who tour Quinnipiac don’t see many students that look like them and opt for more diverse schools. Thus, the number of Black students remains low.

Those Black students that came to Quinnipiac despite its whiteness, made the decision for a variety of reasons — finances, program offerings, location or some just simply didn’t make it on campus for a tour to fully understand its demographics.

I will introduce you to some Black students who came to Quinnipiac. While the Black population here is small, there is no homogeneous Black experience. Some transferred out, some stayed and hated it, others made it their home. Some faced racism themselves, some saw others experience racism.

As a white student, I am in no place to generalize these experiences and try to find a common thread between them, but I will say the students I spoke to, past and present, all agreed Quinnipiac has room for improvement before it is a fully welcoming and inclusive space for Black students.

Jailynn Caraballo

Jailynn Caraballo
Senior political science and journalism major (Emily DiSalvo)

When Jailynn Caraballo first came to Quinnipiac, she clung to the Multicultural Suite for dear life. She said she isn’t the only one relying on the space. This suite in the Carl Hansen Student Center feels safe for students of color.

“They don’t really feel like there is a place for them in the cafeteria,” Caraballo said of the Black community at Quinnipiac. “Now you see more of us have to be in the cafeteria because of space restrictions in the (Multicultural Suite), but you’ll notice people of color on campus stick together. If you see a table of Black people in the cafe it’s because those people hung out in the (Multicultural) suite together.”

Staying in one’s comfort zone can cause segregation because both Black and white students prefer to congregate separately, according to Caraballo.

“It’s kind of the mentality people of color have on campus of protecting themselves,” Caraballo said. “Even though it is kind of an unconscious thought, it’s what we all do.”

In some ways, Caraballo assumes the Multicultural Suite adds to the segregation issue at Quinnipiac at the expense of creating a safe place for Black students.

“It’s hard because I wouldn’t have met any of my friends if it wasn’t for the Multicultural Suite,” Caraballo said. “We take a lot of pride in it as our space, but it also feeds into the idea of us needing to stay in a corner at Quinnipiac and every other place at Quinnipiac being for the whites.”

It also feeds into the idea of us needing to stay in a corner at Quinnipiac and every other place at Quinnipiac being for the whites.”

— Jailynn Caraballo

Caraballo noticed the multitude of white spaces on campus when she toured as a prospective student.

“My tour guide did not talk about the Multicultural Suite, did not talk about students of color, did not talk about Department of Global Engagement events or organizations,” Caraballo said.

For Caraballo, being a Black student at a Primarily White Institution (PWI) pushed her to be involved on campus as much as possible.

“I can’t even think of one person of color on campus who isn’t incredibly active in their roles on campus,” Caraballo said. “We are upset because there aren’t more people to do it. The white population can afford to have a group of go-getters and a group of not go-getters. If we aren’t all go-getters people are going to be like, ‘Why are you even here?’”

Caraballo’s concern is that some of these organizations are using people of color as “tokens.”

“QU is a university that really wants people of color to come and to stay because it helps them in the long run as a university and in their standing,” Caraballo said. “But at the end of the day, they don’t really care about us. I don’t see a way in which Quinnipiac cares about their people of color.”

In the summer of 2019, Caraballo served as an orientation leader. She said they recruited her and welcomed her into the program, but on the job she did not feel respected and experienced racism.

“It was just ‘we are going to prop her up here and she is going to get more Black women and Black people to come to campus.’ Period,” Caraballo said.

To solve the problems Caraballo laid out, she suggested that Quinnipiac leaders educate themselves about race rather than asking Black students for advice.

“At this point in the country we are living in, it is not OK enough for a white woman to ask a person of color how they can do better,” Caraballo said. “They either need to educate themselves and do better or not work for a university that is supposed to uphold standards for all of their students.”

Ohidiani Imevbore

Ohidiani Imevbore
Junior political science and international business major (Photo from Ohidiani Imevbore)

Ohidiani Imevbore, of Nigeria, attended high school at a British boarding school, so she came to Quinnipiac as no stranger to a PWI. She came because the school allowed her to major in both political science and international business, something she couldn’t find anywhere else.

However, she was somewhat aware of Quinnipiac’s racial demographics.

“I think it is kind of hard not to notice the fact that there are a lot less Black students on campus as compared to the white students,” Imevbore said. “My mom was just kind of like, ‘You have been in this situation before, you didn’t seem to have a problem with it in boarding school so you shouldn’t have a problem with it in college.’”

After the campus tour, in which Imevbore saw only three Black people, she and her mom talked and decided that her focus would be on her goals and what she hoped to achieve at school, not on the race of her peers.

Since she enrolled at Quinnipiac, she noticed that the Black and white students do not interact much, but she was not sure exactly why.

Design by Michael Clement

“There’s a lot more white students so maybe it is just a little harder for the Black students to integrate,” Imevbore said. “There’s a stigma as well in terms of having integrated friends. I think it’s familiarity. If we are being honest, Black people are just more comfortable going up to another Black person, it’s just who you are most comfortable talking to.”

Imevbore said she has an integrated group of friends. During her freshman year, she was placed in a quad with one other Black student and two white students, whom she is still friends with today.

“I was lucky enough to have that and also my role as a (Resident Assistant) has also allowed me to have a more diverse group of friends,” Imevbore said. “At the start of my freshman year, I only had a certain number of Black friends and white friends, but I think now it is evening out.”

Imevbore said Quinnipiac must be making an effort to recruit more Black students because she is seeing more now than in previous years.

“It’s either I am walking past them more or there are just more on campus,” Imevbore said. “When I was coming in as a freshman, I don’t want to say I could count, but I could remember the few on campus when I was a freshman. Now, it is a lot more.”

When I was coming in as a freshman, I don’t want to say I could count, but I could remember the few on campus when I was a freshman. Now, it is a lot more”

— Ohidiani Imevbore

While Quinnipiac is trying, Imevbore said the school should “try harder” to recruit Black students and make it a place they want to stay. One way to do this, Imevbore said, is recruiting more Black faculty.

“In political science, there is only one Black female professor and she was my first ever Black female professor since I left Nigeria (at age 13),” Imevbore said.

Being taught by a Black woman, Khalilah Brown-Dean, was an “incredible” experience for Imevbore.

“Not only are her classes very interesting to be in, but also I like to have a female Black professor, someone who looks like me who is teaching me and is so smart,” Imevbore said. “It makes me feel proud.”

If she had the chance to go back in time, Imevbore said she’d make the same decision about coming here.

“I have made some amazing friends, my professors are amazing, I have had some amazing opportunities,” Imevbore said. “If I was a senior in high school, I would come back.”

Eyitoritse Mojuetan

Tori Mojuetan
Former QU student (Photo from Facebook)

Eytoritse (Tori) Mojuetan doesn’t identify as African American. She identifies as African. Her ancestors did not come to America as slaves, but rather experienced the loss as friends and neighbors were captured and enslaved.

Mojuetan left Quinnipiac in the spring of 2019 after just one year. As someone who grew up in Australia, which is primarily white, Quinnipiac was more diverse than what she was used to. In fact, she lived in an eight-person suite in Mountainview in which the room was evenly split between white people and people of color.

“I had been the only Black person in an entire school before so I was like, it is what it is,” Mojuetan said. “It’s America. There should be at least one person that looks like me.”

Quinnipiac gave her a large scholarship, and she committed despite never visiting the school in person.

Mojuetan had a hard time fitting in with students in the Black Student Union (BSU) that identified as African American.

“I would talk about things that happened in West Africa, where I am from, and people would be really gross toward Africans even though they are Black,” Mojuetan said. “I personally never felt comfortable in the Multicultural Suite, but at the same time I felt more comfortable with people who were … not white.”

When it came to making friends, Mojuetan said she spent most of her time with a group of mixed race, Black and Southeast Asian friends.

“That was an easier group to sit with than the African Americans that hate on Africa, which was just bizarre to me, but it also wasn’t (a group of) the white students who made me feel very uncomfortable and weird,” Mojuetan said. “It was all just we don’t know where we sit so let’s hang out together. We’re colored, but we don’t fit in any of the other demographics.”

we don’t know where we sit so let’s hang out together. We’re colored, but we don’t fit in any of the other demographics”

— Tori Mojuetan

Additionally, Mojuetan’s academic interests did not fit into a predetermined box. When she enrolled at Quinnipiac, she was initially an interdisciplinary studies major, but when she realized that only applied to education, she tried to find another major that fit what she wanted to do.

Mojuetan hopes to one day become a surgeon focused on healthcare policy and help impoverished areas of Africa receive quality healthcare. She chose to double major in biology and an independent major she had to design herself, but she found that the classes Quinnipiac had to offer weren’t adding up to a major she desired.

While these program issues were the main reason she left, she was also baffled by what she calls “a different breed” of racism that exists at Quinnipiac.

“Most people sat in the middle where they were complicit about a lot of things, but they didn’t know they were being complicit,” Mojuetan said. “If you called it out, you were gaslighted and they were kind of like, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’”

This was her first exposure to New England racism, which Mojuetan said is much different than the blatant racism of the South.

“The North is like ‘We’re not racist,’ but they’ve never met a Black person before so they never had a chance to be shitty,” Mojuetan said. “These people never interacted with someone like me and realized that their tendencies are just not OK.”

For example, one of her professors once assumed she had never experienced racism because she didn’t identify as American. She said this American-centric focus is what frustrated her about her time at Quinnipiac. She couldn’t find classes or people that shared her world view.

“I wanted more than just America,” Mojuetan said. “I was looking for a far more international focus. That isn’t anyone’s fault per say. It’s just what I required.”

Mojuetan said she doesn’t regret her one year at Quinnipiac because it changed her life. She does not fault Quinnipiac for its shortcomings — she faults the country it is located in.

“The problems that exist at Quinnipiac are not a result of Quinnipiac but America as a whole,” Mojuetan said.

Warren Webb

Warren Webb
QU Class of 2019
(Photo from Warren Webb)

Warren Webb, of Jamaica, came to Quinnipiac blindly. He never had a chance to travel to Connecticut to tour it, but it was the best financial option. When deciding on schools, he asked Quinnipiac for more money and when they obliged, he was sold.

“If you are willing to invest more money into someone, you’re probably making an investment in their education,” Webb said.

When he first started going to class, he didn’t notice how white Quinnipiac was. It took him a few weeks of hoping that there were still more Black people to run into to realize how few there were.

“It wasn’t until a few weeks in I was like, ‘Whoa, it’s really not that diverse here,’” Webb said. “I didn’t initially see that.”

Webb said that Black students hung out with other Black students, but also white students who they had something in common with.

“It could be you were both wealthy or in sports,” Webb said. “If you didn’t have those things in common, there was nothing really to talk about.”

Webb helped draft the plans for the Multicultural Suite in the Carl Hansen Student Center. He hoped it would help address the fact that multicultural organizations on campus did not have a designated place to meet like other groups did. Webb also worked to establish the African and Caribbean Student Union and participated in the Black Student Union.

Despite his involvement in many aspects of campus life, including holding a position as a Resident Assistant and enjoying his time at Quinnipiac, Webb said he was frustrated by the amount of student complaints Quinnipiac needed in order to take steps to become a more inclusive institution. This includes funding multicultural organizations and denouncing racist incidents like Blackface.

“Most of the implementations they made were based on student’s prompting them,” Webb said. “While I can admit they have made some growth, without the students’ voice they probably would not have taken most of the steps they have.”

While I can admit they have made some growth, without the students’ voice they probably would not have taken most of the steps they have.”

— Warren Webb

Webb said he was also frustrated by how Quinnipiac reacts to racism on campus and in the real world.

“They have always been very passive in terms of how they respond to things that have to do with race,” Webb said. “In terms of race and racism and things being wrong, I feel like there should be more of a clear stance against that.”

If Webb was a senior in high school right now, he said he would reconsider his decision to attend Quinnipiac.

“There’s so many factors that go into that but I would probably look at some more schools,” Webb said. “I didn’t think that it was a big deal before because I was coming from somewhere else that was predominantly Black. But now that I have come here and realized how it shaped my social life at Quinnipiac, I think I would reconsider.”