QU loosens restrictions, more events will be held

Xavier Cullen and Brendan Samson

As soon as senior biomedical science major Allison Maas stepped into On The Rocks for Quinnipiac University’s St. Patrick’s Day event, she could feel the exciting night that awaited her.

On March 17, the school celebrated the reopening of its bar, On The Rocks, on York Hill after it was closed down last year due to the pandemic. But now, after just over a year since its grand opening, students were welcomed back with a night full of festivities.

Gianna Fleming (right) dancing along with Catherine Wallace (left) and Jessica Grant (center). (Brendan Samson)

“This one, I think has been pretty fun, it’s laid back and chill,” Maas said. “It’s cool to be able to be in On The Rocks because I’ve never seen it before. So it’s nice having events here because it’s nice and spacious.”

Throughout the room, everything Maas could see was colored green. The necklaces, sunglasses, Hershey’s Kisses and paper shamrocks that covered every table let her know that this was a St. Patrick’s Day event.

As the night progressed, the hosts projected an Irish-themed game of Kahoot onto all 15 television screens that lined the back of the bar.

The attendees punched in the game code, added their nicknames and then the games began. Associate Director of Graduate Student Affairs Stefano Fasulo took the microphone and began rattling off dozens of questions about Irish history, geography and politics.

It was a tense game that came down to the wire, but Gianna Fleming, co-president of the Quinnipiac Irish Dance Club and junior 4+3 physical therapy major, came out on top. After her victory, Fleming laced up her soft shoes, joined her fellow dancers and pranced along the aisle as Gaelic music played overhead.

“It’s been pretty lively, everybody seems extremely enthusiastic, they’re getting involved clapping and cheering along with us, they’re smiling and laughing along with us, or at least I would hope so with the masks and all,” Fleming said. “It definitely feels like a nice breath of fresh air after midterm week and just being able to come out here and have fun.”

The three dancers congregated in the center of the aisle for one more routine. Then, after a roaring applause from the crowd, they bowed their heads and walked to a booth where they changed into their hard shoes for their next routine.

As Fleming and the dancers took a few minutes to rest up, the attendees got a chance to write on their provided paper shamrocks about what they were lucky for.

Maas grabbed her green marker and wrote about her supportive friends and family. After she was done, she grabbed a piece of tape and stuck her message alongside numerous others that populated the entrance poles to the bar.

As a graduating senior, Maas said her final year at Quinnipiac has been far from what she hoped for, but events like these give her an outlet for some social interaction within the community. This is something that has only been possible in the past few weeks due to the university easing its COVID-19 restrictions.

Allison Maas and her friend write down what they are lucky for on paper shamrocks. (Xavier Cullen)

“I think it’s really great,” Maas said. “I’m a graduating senior so it’s really nice to be involved on campus, especially because last semester I was stuck in my dorm, so it’s nice to be able to be out interacting with people. I pretty much go to almost every single event that I can on campus as long as I’m not in class or at work.”

Amongst the crowd was Chief Experience Officer Tom Ellett, who was excited to see the students eager to engage with others in the Quinnipiac community.

“I think that engagements like this are so necessary as we’ve come in the middle, hopefully to the end, of the pandemic where students aren’t able to engage with people, their peers, in an environment like this,” Ellett said. “And this place is great. I’ve only been here when nobody is here, so to be here with the lights on and students here, dancers going to be here and games going on, I think that’s a part of the college experience you want to capture.”

This comes after the university announced COVID-19 policy changes that have loosened restrictions on visitors from other residence halls.

“I would say we’re holding our own,” Ellet said. “We’re not declining, and we are not growing, we are holding our own. So, yes we are able to lift these restrictions we’ve had, so that’s a very positive place to be.” 

As the brief resting period for the dancers was over, they laced up their hard shoes and reassembled on the stage in the back right corner — this time looking for volunteers to join them.

With plenty of years of dancing under her belt, Maas stepped on stage with her friend to dance in front of the crowd. After some short lessons by Fleming and company, Fasulo hit play on the music, and the group of three dancers became five.

“It was fun,” Maas said. “I feel like I was a little nervous just because there’s a decent amount of people, but I thought everybody was pretty encouraging and, yeah, it was fun.”

Now with an Irish dancing number in her resume, Maas and her friend returned to their seats and enjoyed the rest of the show. Fasulo blasted the final song of the night, and Fleming and her two partners danced their hearts out as they were fueled by the energy of the audience.

“We’ve got a huge crowd cheering us on, getting involved, getting engaged, everybody’s clapping along with us laughing and smiling under the masks, we’re excited,” Fleming said.

The step dancers gave their final bow as the time neared 10 p.m., and the attendees soon filed out of the bar. Fleming was able to take her shoes off for the first time in hours, and the dancers ate the desserts everyone had been eyeing all night, such as the Lucky Charms Rice Krispie Treats and the green frosted brownies.

As the weeks go on, Quinnipiac’s situation with COVID-19 has stayed put as positivity rates have yet to significantly increase. When asked if students can look forward to more opportunities for social gatherings in the near future, Ellett’s answer was emphatic.

Maas (back) dancing on stage with the Irish Step Dance Club (Xavier Cullen)

“Absolutely,” Ellett said. “As the weeks go on, we’re loosening things up. You saw that the residence halls are going to be able to have guests this week, we’re allowing pods to play basketball, hopefully in the coming weeks we’ll allow people that aren’t pods to play basketball together. Each week it’s based on how we’re doing as it relates to the positivity rate.”

Maas collected her things and headed out from the great night at On The Rocks, but not before she picked up a free copy of “Celebrating 250 Years of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” published by the university itself.

She left the Rocky Top Student Center with a smile behind her mask and a new memory to add to a unique semester.