Chief of limiting experience: CXO Tom Ellett has failed to live up to his title

Peter Piekarski, Associate Sports Editor

Illustration by Connor Lawless

It’s no secret that Quinnipiac University has a constrained budget, especially with the impacts of COVID-19. Hiring Tom Ellett as chief experience officer (CXO), the first at the university, was more than questionable from the start and has only negatively impacted the school and its students since.

The position of CXO, as defined by the school, is responsible for “overseeing all student-facing functions, including enrollment management, student affairs, registrar, bursar, public safety, veterans’ affairs and career services,” according to qu.edu. That means whoever is in this position has a hand in all aspects of the Quinnipiac student experience.

Students and parents are unimpressed with Ellett’s first year as CXO by his decision making, his priorities, treatment of students and money management. A number of students The Chronicle interviewed requested to keep their identity anonymous in fear of consequences from publicly speaking against him.

When Ellett was hired in August 2020, many students and faculty were not only shocked, but also aggravated. Quinnipiac was looking for a CXO, but right after making millions in budget cuts, entering a hiring freeze and furloughing or laying off 168 faculty and staff members, it was a perplexing move.

Quinnipiac University is renovating The Commons to include a three-bedroom apartment for Chief Experience Officer Tom Ellett to live in. (Photo by Chatwan Mongkol/Chronicle)

Despite a constrained budget and lackluster enrollment, Ellett and the Quinnipiac administration found a way to spend an excessive amount of money to renovate The Commons so that he can live in a three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment with his wife and dog along with renovating The Complex.

“Having more academic and intellectual presences in the residence halls, in role models and future letter recommenders to students is a very positive thing to have around students in this formative age in their development,” Ellett said.

Yes, Complex being renovated was part of the plan that Quinnipiac President Judy Olian put forth, but doing it now was not necessary. Money is tight for the school, so why was this a priority?

It’s also an uncomfortable move for freshmen living in The Commons. If I was a freshman living there, I’d be uneasy if a high-ranking university official moved into my residence as an 18-year-old who’s never lived outside of my own home, especially if the school did not ask me if I supported the notion.

Ellett mentioned he was unaware if Quinnipiac had in some way tried to assess whether or not students were comfortable with him moving in. That’s unacceptable for his role.

Secondly, why is Quinnipiac spending its money on a man receiving retirement benefits from NYU? Why is the school not allocating money to more important student situations such as the club sports budget?

Moving from one student issue to another, many have been fed up with the parking nightmare that Quinnipiac executives refuse to recognize as an issue. It all started with Ellett’s email about a parking fee being incurred to only off-campus residents and later requiring all incoming students to live on campus for a minimum of three years.

Ellett’s decision to only target off-campus residents and not all students was most likely a financially driven decision.

To say that the move was solely based on academics, which has been Ellett’s main point in his defense, is comical. While, yes, students that are non-residential have a lower cumulative GPA than residential students according to an email sent by Ellett in February, it does not mean that living off-campus is the reason for it.

I, just like thousands of other students at this university, have taken out student loans to attend here. This school is not cheap, and I recognize that. If I’m given the option of paying $72,300 to live on campus or $56,800 to live off-campus, I’m taking the latter with no hesitation.

Some non-residential students are upperclassmen who do things outside of their studies such as working part-time jobs, caretaking for family members, learning from internships, holding leadership roles in student organizations, playing on sports teams and participating in Greek life.

Priorities shift as students prepare to graduate and enter the workforce. Of course, a student’s GPA is important, but to assume that’s the only factor that’s impacted by the move is insulting.

If it’s really an academic issue for off-campus students, why doesn’t the school try to assist its 2,338 non-residential students instead of making their lives harder?

While that situation occurred, Quinnipiac knowingly neglected the need for main campus student parking by deciding to move the tennis courts to North Lot and then build a new recreation and wellness center.

For a school that’s supposedly strapped for cash, why is a $45 million recreational center a necessary move right now? Why was there a need to inevitably eliminate 145 parking spaces from North Lot?

The answer is there’s not. It’s a financially poor decision. High school students don’t pick colleges because of the recreational center.

Has the parking on main campus been an issue for several years preceding COVID-19? Yes. Does that mean it’s OK for the school to not view it as an issue despite students being fed up with it? Not in the slightest.

I’ve talked to many students and have had many emails forwarded to me that describe how poorly Ellett has communicated about the parking situation as well as how demeaning and pretentious he and the new One Stop team come across as.

Ellett’s answers to student emails avoided answering questions and only gave information that he wanted to provide. Most of them mentioned that he wanted students to use the parking lots that are off-campus or up on the York Hill campus.

Senior mechanical engineering major Zack Polak emailed Ellett with questions regarding the removal of parking spots.

When asked if students would lose 145 spots in North Lot as a result of construction, Ellett responded by saying there are spots on York Hill and Whitney lots that are not used on a regular basis. Following that, when Ellett was asked where the spots will be removed from, he did not even answer the question, rather responding with “sometime this summer.”

I’ve talked to many students and have had many emails forwarded to me that describe how poorly Ellett has communicated about the parking situation as well as how demeaning and pretentious he and the new One Stop team come across as.”

— Peter Piekarski, associate sports editor

“Kinda obvious he didn’t put a lot of thought into the responses,” Polak said. “You can tell he didn’t really care.”

It further signifies that Ellett finds ways to dodge the answers to many student questions.

In a news piece The Chronicle published in May, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Sal Filardi mentioned that the university didn’t anticipate that the tennis courts relocation would impact any of the students and that there’s plenty of parking campus-wide.

If you combine all of the parking lots Quinnipiac has (North, Hogan, Hilltop, Whitney, Westwoods, Whitney Village and York Hill) there are a total of 4,541 parking spaces. However, three of those lots and the lots in York Hill are not attached to the main campus.

That’s fine. Those lots should be used more frequently, but they aren’t, and for good reason.

As previously mentioned, students are tight for time as is, so what would be the point of parking away from campus and then waiting for a shuttle service that has been an abomination for as long as I’ve been here? Even Westwoods is only accessible via call service.

In an email to a student, Quinnipiac’s Assistant Director for Auxiliary Services Sam Gougsa said, “If students can bike or walk, they should, and therefore be part of the solution to parking problems on college campuses.”

I think that’s hilarious.

Why should the students solve a problem they didn’t create in a situation where they’re the main people affected? Not only will some students have to spend money on a parking pass, which can’t even be properly used because of how limited parking is, but now they have to walk or bike there because it hasn’t been properly addressed.

Say I were to walk to class every day since I don’t have a bike, to avoid the parking situation. I’d have to walk 2.6 miles there and 2.6 miles back every day, which is roughly two hours of walking each day. What about when it’s 20 degrees in December and it’s snowing? Should I walk or ride my bike then?

I work two separate internships at the moment, one of them being over 40 miles away, on top of my classes as well as working as the associate sports editor for The Chronicle in addition to playing on the Quinnipiac club rugby team. My time is tight as is, but now I have to find more time in my day so that I can find a parking spot?

That’s nonsense.

What’s even more frustrating about not being listened to, is how we as a student body are talked to.

Gabriella Colello, former Student Government Association multicultural and identity senator, has routinely displayed her displeasure with Ellett.

“Instead of giving me an answer he’ll just tell me he has a Ph.D. and that he knows better, but at no point has he actually been able to address this or pledged to solve this problem for true commuters,” Colello said. “For those reasons, I have very little respect for Tom Ellett and his position and I cannot say that he has improved my student experience since he’s been here.”

We are adults. We don’t deserve to be treated or talked to like children.

Dozens of students reached out to me about their experiences with Ellett. Not a single one was positive. Not a single person I’ve talked to appreciates the neglect Ellett provides to the student body.

They’re fed up with action not being taken – and so am I. Change is long overdue.